Excessive noise has many effects on the ears and can lead to hearing loss, so what can you do to minimise this when you work in an environment filled with loud equipment such as generators, diggers and submersible pumps?
The first step is to do a noise risk assessment to determine how excessive and loud the noise is. This can be judged using a sound level metre (SLM) or noise dose meter (NDM) according to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
These devices can be used to calculate not only the level of noise, but how long the exposure is and which higher order controls can be put into place to reduce this.
It is essential for all workplaces to keep records about their noise assessments, and have these available for workers. These assessments should be repeated every five years, or anytime there is a change of plant, building structure or duration of work arrangements.
How can you minimise noise exposure in the workplace?
Where possible, it is important to organise quieter machines. If you are hiring them, make sure you use a reputable organisation to ensure all parts are in working order and regularly maintained.
If loud equipment is going to be used, it is necessary to separate the noisy area with a sound reducing partition or use sound-absorbing material on the walls, ceiling and floors.
How can a business' administration change to control noise exposure for other workers?
If noise cannot be controlled or minimised, there are a few steps to take to ensure that your staff are protecting their ears.
One of these is to notify workers in advance if loud equipment is being used and to organise work schedules so that the work takes place when fewer workers are in the location.
Make sure that only those workers who are needed for the specific job are there and that their time is limited, as long term exposure can be damaging.
The noisy area should be signposted as 'hearing protection areas' and the boundaries defined so workers can take preventative steps to protect their ears.
What personal equipment can you use?
There is a range of ear protectors available, some of which cover the ear, while others are inserted into the ear canal entrance to protect hearing.
All workers should be supplied with suitable equipment to protect their ears. The level of protection required will depend on the work conditions, but it essential these items are worn when workers are exposed to noise.