Noise Levels

Industrial Hearing Loss

In claims for industrial hearing loss, it is necessary to show that the employers have exposed the worker to noise levels which are higher than the allowed levels.

Noise is measured in decibels (db). The higher the decibels, the greater the level of noise experienced. As well as level of noise, the length of exposure time (noise intensity) is also important – in other words, the longer the exposure, the greater the damage will be.

Noise at Work Regulations 1989

These Regulations came into force on 1 January 1990. They set a First Action Level of 85 db(A) and a Second Action Level of 90 db(A).

  • Regulation 4 – assessment of noise exposure

The employer must risk assess the noise levels where they are above 85db. This will allow them to identify the employees exposed to noise and to take action. The assessment must be reviewed whenever there is a change in working practices.

  • Regulation 5 – assessment records

The employer must keep a written record of their risk assessments.

  • Regulation 6 – reduction of risk of hearing damages

noise induced hearing loss regulationsThe employer shall reduce the risk of damage to the hearing of his employees from exposure to noise to the lowest level reasonably practicable

  • Regulation 7 – reduce noise exposure

Every employer shall reduce employee’s exposure to noise to below 90db (other than by providing hearing protection)

  • Regulation 8 – ear protection

An employer shall supply employees with hearing protection if they request it when the noise levels are likely to be above 85db. They must supply the protection when the noise levels reach 90db

  • Regulation 9 – hearing protection zones

Where the noise is likely to be more than 90db, the area must be marked with clear signs to indicate that it is an ear protection zone and that hearing protection must be worn. The employees should not allow anyone to be in the ear protection zone without hearing protection

1989 noise induced hearing loss regulations

  • Regulation 10 – maintenance of equipment

All machinery must be properly maintained and used properly – for example noise proof doors, baffles around loud machines

  • Regulation 11 – Provision of information to employees

Employees must provide employees with information, instruction and training about the risk of damage to their hearing if they are likely to be exposed to noise above 85db

Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

These Regulations came into force on 6 April 2006.

They create lower action levels and they update the maximum noise (sound pressure) peaks.

The First Action Level is now set at 80db(A) and the Second Action Level is 85db(A)

The latest Regulations also provide a specific requirement for employers to carry out health surveillance and make information available to employees about the outcome of the tests, to train employees in the use of hearing protection and to take reasonable steps to eliminate noise at source.

2005 noise induced hearing loss regulationsThey add a weekly exposure period for assessing noise exposure in suitable cases.

The guidance notes to the Regulations suggest some simple tests to judge noise levels:

  • Having to shout or having difficulty being heard by someone about 1 metre away is likely to be in noise of 90db
  • Having to shout or having difficulty being heard by someone about 2 metres away is likely to be in noise of 85db
  • Having to shout or having difficulty being heard by someone at a normal conversation distance is likely to be in noise of 80db

These are helpful indicators to determine whether there is a problem with noise in the workplace.

industrial noise in decibels

Comparison of the 2 Noise Induced Hearing Loss Regulations

Provision 1989 Regulations 2005 Regulations

Reduce Risk

Lowest Practical Level Eliminate at sourse or reduce to a minimum
Assess Exposure 85db 80db
Measure Exposure 85db 80db
Provide Information to workers 85db 80db
Hearing Protection 90db 85db
Hearing Zones 90db 85db


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