One particular type of risk to the health and safety of workers involves the potential for hearing loss and damage caused by loud or prolonged noise levels. This noise will usually be produced by machinery which is necessary for carrying out particular activities, some of which include:
It can also be produced by sources which are not directly involved in carrying out a process but are necessary to prevent a health and safety danger from explosions or a build up of toxic gases, such as high pressure exhaust gases exiting a vent and large extractor fans spinning around.
The actual method of reducing the danger posed to workers will depend greatly upon the type of noise, or more specifically, how it is generated. Whilst some managers may think that simply issuing ear protectors to employees will be enough, they will need to first of all carry out suitable risk assessments and determine if it is reasonably practical to reduce or eliminate the hazard before issuing protective equipment. No matter what the risk, when it comes to health and safety it is always preferable to remove the danger if at all possible than to issue personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers to keep them safe from the harm posed by the danger in question.
In most cases the danger cannot reasonably be removed or eliminated, but there will nearly always be steps which can be taken to reduce noise and sound levels so that it offers less of a risk to the hearing of those nearby. Even if it cannot be reduced to a level where personal protective equipment such as ear defenders are no longer required and these are still needed to be worn, it is necessary to make these changes in order to lower the potential for danger to hearing.
As stated earlier, the changes which need to be made will be specific to how the noise is being created, and can include one or more of the following measures:
It should also be noted that older or poorly maintained machinery and equipment can be noisy, not to mention having a higher likelihood of causing another hazard to the health and safety of those nearby through other potential risks such as fires, electrocution, or dangers caused by a break-down of a machine or electrical device such as a sensor.