Noise at Work Regulations
From January 1990 to April 2006, the Noise at Work Regulations, 1989 defined the responsibilities of employers and employees in noisy or potentially noisy workplaces. The Noise at Work Regulations 1989 were superseded on 6 April 2006 by the more stringent Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, except for the music and entertainment industry where the old regulations continued for a transition period which is now over.
ISVR Consulting now undertakes noise assessments under the new Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
The following information on the Noise at Work Regulations 1989 is provided for historical interest.
The Noise at Work Regulations 1989 were based on the "daily personal noise exposure", LEP,d (technically equivalent to LEX,8h in International Standards), of each worker or category of worker. The daily personal noise exposure is a measure of the total amount of noise received during a working day taking into account the noise levels and the amount of time the person spends in each noise level. Noise levels were measured in the undisturbed sound field, that is without the local effects of the worker's head and body.
Action levels were specified, based on the likelihood of hearing damage resulting from noise exposure, and seeking to protect a high proportion of the population.
Where the LEP,d exceeded 85 dB(A), the First Action Level, a range of duties fell on the employer. The most commonly recognised duties were that
- employees had to be instructed in the effects of noise and the risks to hearing and
- suitable forms of personal hearing protection had to be made available.
Where the LEP,d exceeded 90 dB(A), the Second Action Level, the range of duties was extended. In addition to those duties above
- the employer had to reduce the noise as far as reasonably practicable by means other than ear protectors, and
- ear protectors had to be provided and had to be worn in the designated areas.
The Regulations also specified an instantaneous peak noise level, the Peak Action Level, which should never have been exceeded no matter how briefly. This was to prevent exposure to strong impulsive noise, such as that generated by certain pneumatic or explosive tools. The Peak Action Level was an instantaneous sound pressure of 200 pascals, or 140 dB re 20 µPa (unweighted).
The regulations required that an assessment should be made by a Competent Person wherever it is likely that anyone is exposed to the First Action Level or above.
It was suggested that as a rough guide, an assessment of the daily personal exposure, LEP,d, would usually be needed wherever people had to shout or had difficulty being heard clearly by someone about 2 metres away, or if they found it difficult to talk to each other.
Where there was a likelihood of exposure to the Second Action Level or above, then the employer had a specific duty under Regulation 7 to take steps to reduce the noise exposure other than by the provision of personal hearing protection.