Freelance Tech Writer for SHP and IFSEC Insider

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A tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.
June 21, 2021

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workplace noise

Workplace noise: how much is too much?

For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic created a situation where more staff were being asked to work from home. As people begin to return to the workplace more regularly, this is an opportunity to look at some of the ways that we work, especially in a workplace environment. And one issue that is worth investigating is workplace noise.

HearingSome remote workers may have become used to working without background noise. Others who may have been completely unable to work may have gotten used to living without loud noise in their life – the return to the workplace could cause problems, then.

Here Dakota Murphey takes a look at the different ways that workplace noise affects staff, and what you can do about it…

Loud noise at work can cause hearing loss

Worldwide it is estimated that 1.3 billion people suffer from hearing loss due to noise exposure, with occupational noise being one of the most common causes of hearing loss.

It is well known that companies must do everything they can to minimise the risk of occupational noise causing hearing loss. It is important to note here that while we might unconsciously associate hearing loss with old age, occupational noise can create hearing loss at any time.

This is backed up by the HSE, which states that “age and general fitness are no protection from hearing loss – young people can be damaged as easily as the old. Someone in their mid-twenties can have the hearing that would be expected in a 65-year-old. Once ears have been damaged by noise there is no cure.”

Noise at work can affect more than just hearing

It should be stated that while workplace noise is something that we associate with problems with hearing, it is not always well understood that it can cause a range of other problems as well. Workplace noise has been linked with problems such as hypertension, which can cause an elevated risk for a range of serious conditions.

It can also make the environment less safe to work in. Being able to hear is a major part of health and safety. If loud equipment stops staff from being able to communicate effectively, this can put people in danger.

Marine Industrial Transmissions is one company that has been investing in quieter machinery to minimise the dangers of workplace noise: “If your employees work in an environment where noise obstructs their ability to communicate, you’re putting them at risk for harm and jeopardising the integrity of your company’s equipment. One missed auditory signal could be the difference between a successfully completed project and a major injury.”

How do you know if your workplace has a problem?

It is a common problem that many workers simply assume that their workplace is normal, and that the kind of noise levels that they are experiencing are what they should expect. However, in some cases these noise levels far exceed what can be considered safe. So, how do you analyse whether your workplace has a problem.

Actually, it can be simpler than you think – many of the best ways to assess workplace noise levels come down to how it affects you day-to-day. Issues like whether employees have to raise their voice to be heard by a colleague two metres away, or whether the noise is intrusive and can make working difficult.

More simply consider issues such as whether power tools are regularly used for long periods or whether there are loud noises due to impacts such as hammering.

Final thoughts

Workplace noise is something that employers have a duty of care to manage and ensure that they are providing staff with appropriate protection. It is a simple fact that if you hear a lot of loud noise at work, you are at risk of problems with hearing, and a range of other challenges – so this is something that should be managed appropriately at all times.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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