Industrial Noise & Vibration Centre

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Occupational Noise Assessment

Noise Assessments - it's time to change how things are done

A noise assessment is a risk reduction investment that should pay for itself, not simply a placebo check-box exercise. The HSE considers that most assessments are “inadequate”.

  • The current risk management process is not fit for purpose. The UK is experiencing a tsunami of hearing damage claims for a 100% preventable condition. It's time to change how things are done
  • Most personnel, including consultants, do not understand just how ineffective hearing protection is in the real world. They should. If you need more than 10dB attenuation, then you are in trouble...
  • Noise control is usually ignored unless levels can be reduced below 85dB(A). It shouldn't be. Cutting noise from 100dB(A) to 94dB(A) reduces risk by 75% and PPE is much more likely to be effective

How to cut risk by 75% - 90% at negligible cost

nil noise induced hearing loss NIHL

A substantial number of employees suffer unnecessary hearing damage every year because the current default risk management procedures are not sufficiently effective. They are obviously (Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) claims) not best practice. Just 3 updates to the standard approach can reduce NIHL risk by 75% - 90% quickly and, in most cases, the revised procedures to reduce risk cost less than current expenditure. These are:-

  • Assessment: don't waste resources on repeat placebo noise assessments telling you what you already know – that there's a problem. The HSE wants you to invest the resources in risk reduction instead.
  • PPE performance: potentially double or treble real-world performance by knowing the limitations and by using the latest PPE technology - and ignore the manufacturers’ assumed protection data.
  • Noise control: this can reduce risk by 50% - 90% at negligible cost (or even saving money) by sourcing the best engineering noise control measures available anywhere.

75% - 90% reduced NIHL risk and reduced costs? Sounds like a plan...

Learn how via our acclaimed noise training courses - up to a full certificate of competency in noise at work qualification.

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Noise Control Audit (NCA) - a cost benefit analysis

Whilst we provide benchmark risk assessments (see below), we can also provide a Noise Control Audit either as a stand-alone service (instead of simply repeating yet another placebo noise survey) that provides the missing element in noise reports or as part of a full noise risk assessment.

This engineering evaluation of the noise control options for a single machine or across a whole site provides you with an accurate cost / benefit analysis on which to base your risk reduction programme. It provides accurate evaluations of the noise attenuation achievable for each machine or area based on current best practice with costs to aid planning and budgeting. In a surprising number of cases, noise control programmes based on the latest best practice are self-financing (reduced PPE requirements, management hassles, better communication and working conditions, improved productivity etc).

Instead of paying for unnecessary repeat risk assessments under the regulations, implement a noise control programme that actually reduces the risks – and potentially pays for itself …

What should you expect from a good noise risk assessment?

Meeting the intent of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (CoNaWR )requires a major revision in the current practices that have not worked. The only reason to carry out a noise assessment is to create an effective Action Plan for the next 2 years.

Control of Noise at Work Regulations – noise assessment expectations

Re-assessment every 2 years is not necessary. Just review and update. The noise assessment must provide you with a detailed programme of action. Investing in a high-quality assessment template for future updates is good practice. An evaluation of the noise control options is mandatory - controlling noise is a priority and PPE cannot be used as a long term solution unless it can be proved that noise control is not practical. There are low-cost noise control solutions to common problems here >

Quoting the HSE:- “… these regulations are concerned with controlling noise, not measuring it… the most important thing about the risk assessment is that it identifies, in an action plan, what needs to be done to protect employees. Employers are expected to use this to set about managing risks… if solutions have been identified “stop assessing and start controlling...”

The following is an outline of the key elements and features that you should expect to be included under each of the 4 headings in any practical and effective noise assessment report, whether in-house or via a consultant.

Noise Measurement

Include noise level figures on a CAD drawing or table or in a database for mobile plant and equipment
Do not use reference numbers on plans linked to tables of noise data – this is both inefficient and annoying…
Include the minimum data for each measurement point: Leq, peak – plus octave bands only when absolutely necessary
Do not download interminable and irrelevant data from your digital SLM e.g. Lns, Lmin, Lmax, SEL, octaves….

Risk Assessment

ID employees exposed above Action Values, provide estimated LEP,d values and how the dose is acquired (sources)

Evaluate effectiveness of current risk management procedures and where legal requirements are not met

Noise Control Options

Audit the noise control options (options, costs, benefits and priorities) and evaluate existing noise control measures

Action Plan

Short term: PPE zones and signs; types and availability of PPE; employee training requirements…

Longer Term: noise control programme; Buy Quiet policy; company procedures / responsibilities; health surveillance

... or become qualified to carry out your own best practice noise risk assessments via our acclaimed, non-academic noise competency training courses.

Digital Noise Assessment (DNA) - open source report template

Noise reports are generally poor quality (HSE data reinforced by our experiences reviewing very depressing noise assessments on IOSH courses) in various formats that make data retrieval a nightmare, encouraging "corporate amnesia". We have made our benchmark Digital Noise Assessment (DNA) report template available free as “open source”. This high-quality report, decades in development with feedback from IOSH competency courses, eliminates the time consuming and tedious process of report writing – which can take longer than the survey…

We hope that making our template freely-available will help make report writing less painful, spread best practice, improve reporting (and hence risk management) quality and save resources that would be better spent on risk reduction.

“… exactly the way assessments should be presented… loved the way the technical details are separated from the practical recommendations… the action plan section is ideal… particularly impressed by the low costs associated with the noise control options to actually solve some of the problems…”

ppe sign ticked

The Digital Noise Assessment (DNA) provides benchmark report templates covering all the requirements of the noise regulations – including the plan of action. Used either in-house or by consultants as standard format for all updates, it makes noise data easily accessible so that you can find and use the information fast. It features:-

  • DNA report “best practice” template: cut-and-paste from the customisable template Word document
  • Action Plan summary: editable managers’ action plan summary to track implementation of risk management
  • Technical Notes: up-to-date technical notes on regulations, PPE, dose calculations, health surveillance, Buy Quiet, noise control, training
  • Example Report: completed pdf report example including factory plan noise levels
  • Noise Control Audit: if you don’t have the technical background for this mandatory regulatory requirement to make a cost / benefit analysis of the noise control options, we can provide this as an add-on service. Contact us to discuss.

The template report documentation is also available to delegates on our certificate of competence in workplace noise risk assessment and management public courses.

Bespoke Noise Risk Assessments - complex projects

Assessing the potential risks to hearing for some types of exposure can require complex projects involving combinations of expertise and experience across a number of noise measurement and evaluation techniques and technologies that are well outside the experience of most organisations. Examples from past projects include:

  • Explosives / guns / grenades etc: very high peak noise levels that are above those that can be accommodated by conventional instrumentation (c 140dB peak limit). We have specialised instrumentation that can handle noise peaks of around 170dB
  • Dangerous monitoring conditions: e.g road traffic (refuse collection, police, fire and highway services etc); water jetting (remote monitoring required); weapons testing etc. Bespoke monitoring systems and measurement techniques plus adaptation of instrumentation is often required
  • Headsets / helmets / radios: e.g. police control centres; police on the beat; call centres; motorcyclists; traffic police, pilots / aircraft personnel etc. We use specialist in-ear monitors, manikin heads and our own bespoke instrumentation and techniques

In many cases, projects may include more than one of these unusual circumstances and it is therefore necessary to develop the optimum practical and safe noise risk assessment strategy for the particular circumstances. Contact us if you have a complex assessment project that you would like to discuss.

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