It’s 10 years since the UK Control of Noise at Work Regulations were introduced covering all industry sectors and bringing us in line with the broader EU Directive.
With a few overall exemption it meant extra protection for the UK workforce but has the legislation actually achieved what it set out to do a decade ago? According to official figures released by the HSE the UK still has around 18,000 people suffering deafness, tinnitus or other hearing conditions caused by Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Even after all these years, from my experience, there are five common mistakes that UK employers still make when it comes to tackling NIHL.
Mistake No 1 is actually doing nothing. This sounds risky but it’s surprising how many employers still prefer to bury their head in the sand when it comes to NIHL, possible HSE prosecution and personal injury claims. One UK manufacturer was recently fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £11,000 towards the cost of the prosecution on the subject.
Mistake No 2 is not using the right equipment to get accurate measurements. It is also important to invest in the right level of monitoring and hearing protection rather than choosing the cheapest option.
Even if you are measuring in good faith but those measurements are not correct, you are making Mistake No 3. Despite your efforts you are still breaching the best practice guidelines and could end up either under or over-protecting your employees against excessive noise.
Mistake No 4 is not calibrating your meter properly or regularly which means your readings could be inaccurate. The microphones of the instruments are very sensitive (for obvious reasons) so you want to make sure it’s measuring accurately.
Mistake No 5 is not trying to control noise risks in the first place. As before, you could be over-protecting your staff from excessive noise and still be open to action from the HSE.
By James Tingay, Quality & Product Development, Cirrus Research Plc.