The effective management of health risks, as well as safety risks, is an essential part of a good health and safety management system. When risk management is integrated into the core business functions, real change and improvement can be seen not only by preventing physical harm to the workers, but also by improving business performance.
Taking occupational health seriously can bring a range of benefits to the business:
- improved relationships with workforce
- lower absenteeism
- happier workforce
- reduced staff turnover
- improved productivity.
As a manager, you have some responsibilities to protect individuals who report to you whether they are temporary, permanent or any other type of workers from the harmful effects of noise generated in your workplace.
In order to manage health risks effectively, you need to understand them fully. Therefore, having a clear understanding of the noise-related risks and how these may affect individuals is crucial. It’s also essential to recognise your own or the business’ limitations.
To establish and maintain a safe working environment, you need to make sure that:
- workers are fully engaging during the identification of hazards and risk assessment process
- workers’ needs are considered during the planning and organising of work
- adequate controls are in place to remove or reduce workers’ noise exposure
- noisy areas are clearly defined and a sufficient number of safety signs are displayed
- hearing protection is provided, maintained and used correctly
- workers are adequately instructed and trained
- a regular health surveillance programme is in place.
Providing information to your workers
Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to their health. Among other things, you must provide them clear instructions and adequate training. The information must include:
- the nature of risks
- safe working practices/rules
- the findings of the risk assessment
- the effects of noise on hearing
- the purpose of hearing protection
- instructions on fitting, use and care of hearing protection
- the purpose of health surveillance, including audiometric testing
- reporting problems.
Everyone working for you should know what they are expected to do. When you provide information or training, ask your workers what they think about it to make sure it’s relevant and effective. The information and training you provide should be in a form that is easy to understand.
Many noise issues are common in various workplaces. The following case studies offer real examples of how some organisations have managed to reduce the noise level through various noise control techniques. These case studies offer some common solutions that can help you in controlling noise in your workplace.
- Transfer of components using a conveyor and metal chute
- Concrete vibrator
- Metal-cutting guillotine
- Reciprocating compressor
- Bench grinder and linisher
- Nightclub - maintenance of sound system
- Powder grinder
- Refrigeration unit - mobile acoustic hood
Leaflets and factsheets
- The World Health Organization provides an in-depth look at all aspects of deafness and hearing loss
- Noise at work – a guide for health and safety representatives from the National Trade Union Centre (UK)
- National Transit Institute (USA) offers advice on occupational noise in this guide
- The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work offers advice on management of noise in construction
- The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has produced a simple fact-file, Noise in figures, highlighting the scale of noise problem in Europe and a factsheet on the impact of noise at work
- Innovative workplace safety accommodations for hearing-impaired workers from the Department of Labor (USA)
- Laboratory safety noise is a simple guide from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USA) to address noise problems in laboratories
- Advice from Health and Safety Executive (UK) on Understanding Health Surveillance at Work (HSE)
WorkSafe New Zealand has produced a series of series of factsheets covering:
- How noise affects your hearing
- How can hearing damage be avoided?
- Responsibilities of employers and employees
- How managers and workers can reduce noise
- Fitting personal hearing protection
- Facts about hearing protection
The following organisations provide further guidance on occupational noise.