SC18 - Noise at work
06 Dec 2010



Control of Noise at Work




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1Initial launchJune 2008
1.1Amendment to audit checklistMay 2013
Add Document retention policy Appendix
August 2014
Minor change to reflect launch of SHE Assure​
​October 2018

1. Purpose

Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work continues to be a significant occupational health hazard. Some 170,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears) or other ear/hearing conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 exists to ensure that workers' hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work, which could cause them to lose their hearing and/or suffer from hearing problems.

This policy outlines the steps to be taken by STFC to eliminate or reduce the risk from exposure to noise for staff or others and establishes noise limits under which work can be carried out in a safe manner.

2. Scope

This code applies to all work conducted on STFC sites by employees, facility users, visitors, and tenants, and to work conducted by STFC staff at other sites in the course of undertaking Council business.

Contractors are responsible for undertaking their own risk assessments including, as appropriate, noise assessments. Contract Supervising Officers should ensure that noise assessments have been completed for work undertaken on their behalf, see SHE Code 15 'Management of Contractors', as appropriate providing information on noisy areas in which work is planned. Contractor assessments should consider the impact of their noise on STFC staff working close or adjacent to proposed work areas.

It does not apply to low-level noise which is a nuisance but causes no risk of hearing damage, see Appendix 1.

This code does not explicitly address the related hazard of vibration induced occupational ill health, where this is believed to be a hazard contact your local SHE team.

3. Definitions

3.1 Noise action values

Noise regulations establish the requirement for employers to take specific actions at certain Noise Action Values, these relate to the: level of exposure to noise averaged over a working day or week; and the maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which employees are exposed in a working day.

The Noise Action Values are:

  • the Lower Exposure Action Values:
    Daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB (A); and
    Peak sound pressure of 135 dB (C) 

  • the Upper Exposure Action Values:
    Daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB (A)
    Peak sound pressure of 137 dB (C)
3.2 Noise exposure limit values

Noise regulations establish Noise Exposure Limit Values at or above which employees can not be exposed, these are: Daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB (A); and Peak sound pressure of 140 dB (C).

3.3 Noise assessment

An assessment to enable identification of where there may be a risk from noise and who may be affected, containing a reliable estimate of employee's exposure levels, identifying what control measures are required and identifying whether any employees require health surveillance, see Appendix 2.

The assessment must be undertaken at a time that is representative of the work carried out by a competent Noise Assessor and needs to take account of:

  • the way they work or are likely to work
  • the work they do or are likely to do, and
  • the ways the work can vary

Noise assessments shall only be undertaken by Competent Noise Assessors using noise assessment meters/equipment maintained and calibrated to national standards.

4. Responsibilities

4.1 Line Managers and Supervisors shall:
  • 4.1.1 Ensure where practicable that noise hazards are eliminated or reduced at source, and/or the need for employees to undertake work in noisy areas is eliminated or reduced so far as is reasonably practicable. Typically, consideration of noise as a hazard might be necessary where individuals need to raise their voices to conduct a normal conversation when about 2 metres apart, for at least part of the working day, see Appendix 1.

  • 4.1.2 Where noise hazards exist in work areas, undertake and document a Risk Assessment, see SHE Code 6 'Risk Management', based upon a Noise Assessment undertaken by a Competent Noise Assessor through SHE Group, see Appendix 2.

  • 4.1.3 Ensure that all actions arising from the Risk Assessment are undertaken to plan and a follow up Noise Assessment undertaken to confirm the effectiveness of remedial actions, see Appendix 3, updating the Risk Assessment with progress.

  • 4.1.4 Where noise levels are at or above the Lower Exposure Action Values: 

    • undertake a Noise Assessment, and
    • provide employees with hearing protection if they request it, see Appendix 4.

  • And where noise levels are at or above the Upper Exposure Action Values ensure that:

    • employees are provided with hearing protection and ensure that the protection is worn appropriately, see Appendix 4
    • hearing protection zones are identified with appropriate signs (areas where hearing protection is compulsory);
    • training on how to use and maintain the hearing protection is provided to employees, and as appropriate protection fitted by competent staff; and 
    • employees working regularly in such areas undertake routine hearing health surveillance.

  • And where noise levels are at or above Noise Exposure Limit Values ensure no individuals are exposed to such levels while working.

  • 4.1.5 Ensure that the following staff register and undertake regular hearing health surveillance through local Occupational Health teams: 

    • all staff regularly working in areas assessed at or above the Upper Exposure Action Value;
    • all staff with pre-existing hearing problems working in areas at or above the Lower Exposure Action Value; and
    • as appropriate other staff identified in Risk Assessments.

  • 4.1.6 Consider when purchasing, or designing equipment for in-house construction, the potential for noise so that noise hazards can be eliminated at source.

  • 4.1.7 Vibration hazards resulting in vibration 'white finger' and upper limb disorders can be associated with noise hazards. Where it is suspected that vibration hazards exist, contact local SHE teams.
4.2 Employees shall:
  • 4.2.1 Inform their manager/supervisor of any physical condition which may affect their capacity to carry out work in a noisy area or if they have already suffered hearing loss or damage.

  • 4.2.2 Inform their manager/supervisor if they think that they are working in or likely to work in a noisy area that could pose a risk of hearing damage. Typically this might be the case if it is necessary to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2 metres apart, for at least part of the working day, see Appendix 1.

  • 4.2.3 Use, maintain, and store appropriately any hearing protection equipment provided to minimise the risk of hearing damage arising from work in a noisy area, reporting as appropriate any equipment defects that may affect its effectiveness. The use of such equipment shall be mandatory in areas at or above the Upper Exposure Action Value.

  • 4.2.4 Report any defects in hearing protection controls and equipment or noise incidents, see SHE Code 5 'Incident Reporting and Investigation'.
4.3 SHE Group shall:
  • 4.3.1 Maintain a register of all STFC noise restricted areas detailing their location, work undertaken and whether they are at or above the Lower or Upper Action Values.

  • 4.3.2 Ensure that a Competent Noise Assessor using suitably calibrated and maintained noise assessment equipment is available when requested by managers to undertake Noise Assessments.

  • 4.3.3 Provide Noise Assessment reports to managers outlining, as appropriate, suggested remedial actions to eliminate, reduce or control sources of noise, or the provision of appropriate hearing protection, see Appendix 3, and that, as necessary, following changes to equipment and/or work practises follow up re-assessments are conducted at the request of managers.

  • 4.3.4 Maintain a stock, directly or through others, of appropriate hearing protection e.g. ear defenders, ear plugs or ear caps for staff.
4.4 Occupational Health shall:
  • 4.4.1 Carry out regular hearing health surveillance, at the request of managers or supervisors, where employees have or are likely to be exposed at or above the Upper Action Value, or if they already suffer from hearing loss and work in areas at or above the Lower Action Value, see Appendix 5.​

Contact: Baker, Gareth (STFC,DL,COO)