When Is Hearing Protection Needed?

Ear defenders

If you’re an employer, you need to be careful to meet legal requirements for providing hearing protection if your employees are exposed to loud noises at work.

Legal requirements

In the UK, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 states that employers must provide hearing protection if employees are exposed to noises averaging 85 decibels or above on a daily or weekly basis. The law also states that employees shouldn’t be exposed to noises above 87 decibels, taking into account any reduction in noise offered by hearing protection.

Measuring decibels

Accurately estimating the noise in your workplace can be tricky, so it can be difficult to know if you’re following the law or not. There are a few different ways to measure sound in decibels. You could use a portable decibel meter like the Tacklife SLM01 or a smartphone app.

Controlling noise

In addition to providing hearing protection to your employees, you should take steps to reduce noise at source. Some ways to reduce noise in the workplace include:

  • Choosing quieter tools and machinery where possible
  • Avoiding metal-on-metal impacts by adding rubber and reducing drop heights
  • Attaching silencers to nozzles and exhausts
  • Placing loud machines in enclosures or behind screens to block sound transmission
  • Positioning loud machinery away from the majority of workers
  • Using absorptive materials such as open cell foam in the building

What hearing protection should you choose?

If you’re buying hearing protection for your employees, you should look for something that meets the following criteria:

  • High enough Single Number Rating (SNR) to reduce the loudest sounds to below 85 dB
  • SNR not too high so as to prevent over-protection
  • Comfortable with an adjustable headband (in the case of ear defenders)

See these articles for some recommended industrial hearing protection products:

If you’re not sure whether to go for ear plugs or ear defenders, see this article: Ear Defenders vs. Ear Plugs.

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