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Noise at Work Focus

As well as the broad range of environmental and architectural services that WBM provides, we can also undertake noise at work assessments in accordance with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Three of our staff hold the Institute of Acoustics Certificate of Competence in Workplace Noise Assessment and we have undertaken assessments at entertainment venues, factories, and at educational establishments for Local Authorities.

What are the Control of Noise at Work Regulations?

The aim of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 is to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work. The regulations define limit values and action values for the noise exposure of employees, including:

Lower exposure action values – daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80 dB(A) and a peak sound pressure of 135 dB(C). At these values, employers must provide hearing protection to those employees who request it.

Hearing Protection IconUpper exposure action values – daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85 dB(A) and a peak sound pressure of 137 dB(C). Where levels exceed these values, employers should ensure that ear protection zones are clearly marked and that employees wear hearing protection whilst in these zones.

Exposure limit values – daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87 dB(A) and a peak sound pressure of 140 dB(C). If employees are exposed to levels above these limit values, the noise levels must be reduced to below the exposure limit value, taking into account the reduction offered by hearing protection.

What does an assessment include?

cel_350Noise at work assessments usually include surveys of relevant work activities, using sound level meters and/or dosemeters. The noise measurements are undertaken at (or at a location representative of) an employee’s ear. The survey results are compared with the action and limit values set out in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and recommendations provided on the use of hearing protection. Advice regarding noise mitigation can also be given.

Technical Update

We thought that the following quick review of three recently published technical documents relating to acoustics would be useful.

A revision of British Standard BS 4142 “Methods for rating and assessing industrial and commercial sound” was published at the end of October 2014 and replaced the 1997 edition. The 2014 edition clarifies the use of the standard and includes good practice for reducing uncertainty. The execution of its provisions will be entrusted to appropriately qualified and experienced people to inform decisions made by other professionals.

The Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment produced “Guidelines for Environmental Noise Impact Assessment” in October 2014. The guidelines define core methods and techniques, used within the noise impact assessment process, relevant to all types and size of development. The guidelines present current good practice methods and procedures to assist in determining the degree of significance of the potential noise impact from a proposal.

With regard to schools, the much awaited replacement to Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) 2003 “Acoustic Design of Schools” has emerged, with version 17 (February 2015) the latest. The acoustic performance requirements in the latest BB93 are broadly similar to the 2003 edition although there are differences, some of which are outlined below:

  • More stringent performance requirements for children with special hearing and/or communication needs
  • Rain noise now requires assessment
  • Performance values are provided for refurbishment as well as new build

The application and consequences of these documents are at an early stage and we would be happy to discuss the potential implications for any of your projects.

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