Workplace Noise and Your Legal Duties
As an employer and business owner you have a legal duty to manage the risk of exposure to noise at work
You must, so far as is reasonably practicable, make sure that none of your workers (or people that visit your workplace) are exposed to noise levels:
- above 85 decibels averaged over 8 hours, or
- a peak noise level over 140 decibels.
This always applies, whether or not your workers are wearing hearing protection. A good indicator that the noise in your workplace may be harmful is if workers have to raise their voices to talk to someone 1 metre away.
If you are unsure if the noise levels in your work are harmful, ask a competent person (someone who has the knowledge, skills and experience in appropriate techniques, procedures and interpreting results) to come in and complete a detailed noise assessment. A competent person would normally be a member of the New Zealand Occupational Hygiene Society with the necessary relevant experience.
Where shifts are longer than 8 hours, you should engage competent person to determine the equivalent noise exposure that would occur over 8 hours.
Provide a safe and healthy environment at work
This involves managing risk from noise, so far as is reasonably practicable. Some ways that you can reduce the risks from harmful noise are:
- removing the noisy machinery from your work
- choosing quieter machinery or equipment
- separating the noisy machinery or equipment from where your workers are
- changing the layout of the work environment to create quiet areas of work
- limiting the time your workers spend in noisy areas by rotating tasks or shifts.
Train your workers
Find out what your workers already know about noise, and make sure they understand that once hearing is lost, it won't come back. Talk to workers about how noise could harm them, and how to identify harmful noise sources. Continually address gaps in workers knowledge by providing ongoing training. Remind your workers about safe practices to protect their hearing.
Provide hearing protection
Make sure your workers always wear hearing protection whenever needed. Find out what your workers already know about hearing protection. Train workers on when and how to use, fit, care for and maintain their hearing protection correctly. Provide workers with opportunities for further training. You must pay for hearing protection, including maintenance and replacement.
Monitor the health of your workers
Arrange audiometry tests with an occupational health practitioner for workers exposed to harmful levels of noise. Make sure your workers understand the results of any health monitoring tests, and actions required from this. An occupational health practitioner can be at the New Zealand Occupational Health Nurses' Association.
Monitor the noise levels at work
A competent person will be able to tell you if a detailed noise assessment is needed. This will identify noise sources and high-risk areas and tasks at your work. Talk with your workers about the results from testing noise levels during work.
Seek your workers views when managing the risks associated with noise at work
Encourage workers to identify and report any concerns. Regularly review work activities with them to identify new risks and ways to deal with them. Change the work environment and methods or equipment used where necessary. Have clear, effective, and on-going ways for workers to suggest improvements or raise concerns about noise risks on a day-to-day basis. Engage with your workers on issues or concerns regarding their hearing.
Get in touch today
We can come to your workplace at a time when it suits you (out of hours if need be to catch shift-workers) and take care of all your custom-made ear protection plug needs, all you need to do is make your employees available.
Ear Protection Plugs Hawke's Bay is a division of Ear Suction Hawke's Bay Limited.