Noise at work — how to improve results

7 March 2019

A new Association formed to promote hearing conservation in the UK claims that current noise risk at work management programmes are not working, and that improvements are needed in several key areas, including personal protective equipment (PPE), noise control and risk assessments.

The UK Hearing Conservation Association (HCA) says its focus will be on preventable causes of hearing loss and hearing health impact “through common sense, cost effective, evidenced solutions”.

The HCA claims that noise risk at work management programmes in the UK are currently not working, as evidenced by insurance liability claims of £400 million in 2014, costs to the NHS of around £500 million each year and an estimated total annual cost to the UK economy of between £5 and £7 billion. Then, the Association notes, there is the cultural and social damage to the affected individuals.

The HCA points out that noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) at work is virtually 100% preventable and that consequently, the way risk is managed and reduced must change.

The HCA says key areas where improvements “can and must be made” relate to the following areas:

  • PPE: since most PPE users, according to research, are only getting a small fraction of the protection assumed

  • noise control: most organisations could reduce risk easily and cheaply using current best practice noise control; for example, cutting noise from 95dB(A) to 92dB(A) halves the risks involved

  • risk assessment: the HCA claims that current reports are lacking and action plans are noted for their absence or poor content

  • buy quiet: organisations should put pressure on suppliers to design quieter machines

  • training and education: this, the Association says, is key to ensure that those exposed to noise, as well as supervisors and managers, understand the risks and harms involved and the key best practice elements as well as how they should be applied and policed.