Elimination of noise is the most effective way to prevent risks to workers and should be considered when new equipment is purchased or procured for workplaces. Low noise equipment should be selected when possible. A project manager or the equivalent person is responsible for demonstrating that equipment noise levels have been considered as part of the selection process. The control of noise generation/exposure should be considered at every stage of a project and recorded with suitable controls. Site management should monitor activities and determine when noise assessments are required. As a rule of thumb if 2 people stood 2m apart have to raise their voices to be heard then a potential noise problem exists and an assessment should be made (all machinery emitting over 85dB (A) should be considered to be a noise risk). |
Occupational noise assessments should be undertaken by a competent person using a calibrated noise meter and should include an octave band analysis. A results sheet should be used for this purpose. Where a noise problem is identified all reasonable steps should be taken to reduce the noise at source and should consider both equipment and workplace design and maintenance.
Engineering controls to include this may include isolation of the source (enclosure, vibration damping), reduction at source or in path (enclosure, barriers, mufflers), replacement or alteration of machines (electrical rather than pneumatic) and carrying out effective preventative maintenance (restriction workplace zones etc).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as ear plugs and ear muffs should be used as a last resort, after all efforts to eliminate or reduce the source of the noise have been exhausted. Ear protection should be selected from the approved PPE list and should be appropriate for the type and duration of the noise, be compatible with other PPE and correctly stored and maintained.
Personnel should be given a choice of suitable hearing protection so they can select the most comfortable solution. Training should be given in its use, storage and maintenance. At the Lower Exposure Action Value of 80dB suitable ear protection should be made available. All individuals should be informed of the noise risk. At the Upper Exposure Action Value 85 dB suitable ear protection should be provided and should be worn in the Ear Protection Zones. Ear protection zones should be clearly marked with the standard blue and white ear protection logo signs.
Health surveillance should be undertaken where workers are regularly exposed above the Upper Exposure Action Values (85 dB and 137 dB peak noise) or when workers are occasionally exposed above the Upper Exposure Action Value, especially if individuals are particularly sensitive to noise, have a family history of the hazard or have previous exposures. All personnel should receive information and training to help them understand and deal with the noise related risks. This should include, but not be limited to the risks faced (as well as the measures taken to eliminate or reduce them), the results of the risk assessment with noise measurements and noise control and hearing protection measures, including restricted areas and PPE.
Documentation relating to the noise hazards should be retained at a work site. In larger companies, upon completion of the project all information should be archived at the company's head office including noise risk assessments, induction and briefing records, PPE issue records, health surveillance records and noise monitoring/measurements.
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