Protecting Against Noise Pollution
Noise pollution can be a real pain in the ears, even if it isn’t the first thing you think of when you look at protecting against hazards in the workplace. Measured in 3 different quantities (decibels, frequency and duration), it is important that anyone who is responsible for works that may generate high levels of noise ensures that they are well controlled.
Noise pollution is legislated by the Control of Pollution Act 1974, Part III (Noise). Local authorities in any given area are responsible for periodical inspections to ensure that noise being generated is not amounting to “nuisance” levels, and also that those responsible are adhering to relevant health and safety guidelines to ensure that noise levels remain at safe, non-nuisance levels.
Different types of noise pollution
When we think of “noise pollution” that could impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing, we may think of things like loud roadworks, alarms or noise that occurs in unsociable hours. However, there are other types of noise that can be included in the nuisance bracket, including excess traffic, sirens and even continued raised voices.
Whilst a lot of these causes are unavoidable, it is important that they are controlled and kept to a minimum in order to keep noise pollution levels as low as possible.
Why Regulate Noise?
There are a number of important reasons as to why noise levels need to be regulated and controlled, across both urban and rural areas. These include:
· Preventing damage to hearing – excess exposure to noise above 70dB can damage human hearing, and exposure to noises above 120dB can do immediate damage. This is particularly important for workers of plant machinery such as mechanical saws, drills and punch presses. This type of hearing loss is classed as NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss).
· Maintaining good health – many studies have shown that excess noise levels can lead to related health problems in humans including stress, high blood pressure, hearing problems, loss of sleep and even effects on speech.
· Protecting wildlife and their habitats – many animals have been seen to exhibit signs of stress when confronted with excess noise. In addition, prolonged exposure may cause animals to abandon their nesting area or habitat.
In addition, the HSE place responsibilities on employers to ensure that noise at work is regulated and controlled. This is under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
Environmental Training Courses
A number of courses are available that cover protecting the environment, with noise pollution being part of the training. These include:
· The NEBOSH Environmental Management Certificate– this contains a section on Control of Environmental Noise in Unit EC1.
· NEBOSH Environmental Awareness at Work Award – This covers Environmental Noise as a topic.
· NEBOSH National Diploma for Occupational Health & Safety Management Professionals - Noise and Vibration are covered in Unit ND2 under Controlling Workplace Health Issues.
· CITB Health & Safety Awareness – this covers Noise & Vibration as part of Module 2
· ISO 14001 training in Environmental Management – these include Assessment of Noise Nuisance training.
Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 - https://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/employers.htm
Control of Pollution Act 1974 Part III - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/40/part/III/enacted