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Sound advice on workplace noise

22 May 2024

Sound advice on workplace noise

The control of noise on construction sites will be an area of ongoing focus Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors in visits during 2024-25, and advice on what they will be looking for was given during a recent conference on workplace safety.

Chris Steel, HSE Principal Specialist Inspector (Noise & Vibration) was speaking at Action on Health in Scotland 2024 held in Dunblane and sponsored by RVT Group, a specialist hirer of equipment for managing site hazards like dust, noise, fumes and ambient temperature.

Chris suggested three areas of focus for site managers: to determine if workplace noise was a problem; whether hearing protection in use was working properly; and how noise could be reduced.

He said that a rough rule of thumb was that if you had to shout to be heard by someone 2m away or less, the noise level was likely to be 85dB or more and carrying out a risk assessment would be sensible.

Actions to determine the adequacy and efficacy of hearing protection could by summed up in the acronym CUFF: condition, use, fitting the ear and fitness for purpose.

The protective equipment had to be in good condition and used correctly. It had to fit the wearer’s ear and it had to be appropriate for the task. A calculator on the HSE website gives advice on this last point.

Chris said that site managers and project designers could consider ways of undertaking processes in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for noisy equipment. Similarly, it might be possible to use quieter alternatives, such as block splitters instead of cut-off saws, or excavator-mounted attachments rather than hand-held breakers. Choosing different consumables could also deliver reductions.

Interestingly, Chris also suggested that workers could be over-protected to the extent that they could not hear moving vehicles or hazard warnings around them, so it was important to determine an appropriate solution for the specific environment.

RVT can provide informative resources, videos, white papers and toolbox talks on tackling dust and other workplace hazards.

Photo: Mimzy/Pixabay


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