Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

Headphones - Noise at WorkThe Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force for most of industry on the 6 April 2006 and for the music and entertainment sectors on the 6 April 2008.

These Regulations requires employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety of their employees from exposure to noise at work. Employees also have duties under the Regulations to co-operate with reasonable requests from their employer in the pursuit of complying with these regulations. The Regulations do not apply to members of the public exposed to noise from their non-work activities, or making an informed choice to go to noisy places.

Within the music and entertainment sectors noise or sound is the desired out come compared to a lot of other industries where noise/sound is a by-product of a process or use of powered equipment as part of work activities etc. Regardless of the type of industry an employee works in they deserve to have their hearing protected and that is what these Regulations try to achieve.

The Regulations set specific "exposure action values" and "exposure limit values", these are detailed in table 1 below and place specific duties on to employers which includes: -

  • Assess the risks to employees from noise at work. The purpose of the Noise Regulations 2005 is to make sure that employees do not suffer damage to their hearing - so controlling noise risks and noise exposure should be where efforts are concentrated.
  • Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks. Wherever there is noise at work an employer should be looking for alternative processes, equipment and/or working methods which would make the work quieter or alternatively reduce the time an employee spends in a high noise environment. Employers should be aware of good practice or the standard for noise control within the industry.
  • Employers should provide employees with hearing protection if noise exposure within the workplace cannot be reduced sufficiently by using other methods and if noise levels exceed the upper exposure action values.
  • Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded. If exposure is below the lower exposure action values, risks are low and so an employer would be expected to take actions which are relatively inexpensive and simple to carry out. Where an assessment shows that employees are likely to be exposed at or above the upper exposure action values, a planned programme of noise control must be in place. Where there are things that can be done to reduce risks from noise, that are reasonably practicable, they should be implemented.
  • Provide employees with information, instruction and training.
  • Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health, where upper exposure action values are exceeded.

Environmental Health Officer's (EHO) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced some useful and practical guidance to assist those who work in the music and entertainment sectors and can be accessed on the link below.

Further information to assist businesses in general in relation to controlling noise within the workplace and protecting employee hearing has been produced by the HSE and is available on the links below: -

Table 1

Exposure action values and exposure limit values

Daily or weekly personal average noise exposure Peak sound level Peak sound level Actions
Lower Exposure Action Values 80dB (A-weighted) 135dB (C- weighted)
  • Undertake risk assessment. If any employees are identified as being particularly susceptible to noise, health surveillance should be implemented
  • Make hearing protection available
  • Establish a maintenance programme for equipment supplied to reduce noise risk such as noise limiters and hearing protection
  • Provide training
Upper Exposure Action Values 85dB (A- weighted) 137dB (C- weighted)
  • Establish and implement a programme of control measures
  • If these measures are not sufficient to reduce exposure below 85dB (A) then:-
  • Suitable hearing protection must be worn and
  • Health surveillance programme implemented 
Exposure limit values 87dB (A- weighted) 140dB (C- weighted)
  • Reduce to below Limit Values (Allowed to take hearing protection into account) 

Noise is measured in decibels (dB). An "A-weighting" written as "dB(A)", is used to measure average noise levels, and a "C-weighting" of "dB(C)", to measure peak, impact or explosive noises. Where the exposure of an employee to noise varies markedly from day to day, an employer may use weekly personal noise exposure in place of daily personal noise exposure for the purpose of compliance with the Noise Regulations.

Examples of how loud some sounds are in relation to level of decibels and the impact that the Control of Noise at Work Regulations have is depicted in the picture below:

 Noise at work

A risk assessment specifically for noise within a workplace must be conducted if noise exposure levels are likely to reach the Lower Exposure Action Value of 80 dB. The aim of the noise risk assessment is to help decide what measures are necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees who are exposed to noise. When undertaking a noise assessment, sometimes measurements are not even needed. An employer may be able to undertake simple listening tests. If the simple tests show that no potentially harmful noise levels are likely, no further action is necessary other than recording this assessment. Such a simple listening test is to establish if employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the working day? If the answer is no then it is unlikely that there is a problem within the work place with respect to noise exposure limits.

If a simple assessment indicates that there could potentially be problems then the expertise of a professional may be needed to establish what levels employees are being exposed to whilst undertaking work duties. However the sound advice web site contains many useful and helpful guidance notes on practicable steps employers in the entertainment industry or in charge of venues where loud music may be played, can take to reduce the impact of the noise on employee health or safety. It is important to ensure that when a risk assessment is undertaken it is drawn up by someone who is competent to carry out this task and the assessment is based on advice and information from people who are competent to provide it.

The Newcastle Noise Project (2008-2009)

During 2008/2009 a number of pubs and clubs worked along side EHO's from the Environment and Safety Team of Regulatory Services and Public Protection Division. This work looked at the level of exposure employees had to noise in the workplace by wearing a dose meter during a typical shift. The results of this monitoring is displayed in the graph below. As it can be seen the majority of bar staff who wore a dose meter was exposed to a sound level above the limit value. These premises have worked with the City Council to improve the safety for their employees by providing hearing protection and where possible altering the layout of the venue so that bar staff where not located in noisy places e.g. relocating speakers etc.

 Noise at work

As a result of the project a risk assessment specifically for noise in a pub / night club was produced and can be download from the link below and used in your establishment to help you comply with these Regulations.

Pub/night club noise at work risk assessment

With the advent of mobile technologies different applications can be down loaded for mobile phones that will give an idea of the sound level within the work environment. This could be used in conjunction with table 2 below that indicates the level of noise and the time limit an employee could be exposed to until the upper exposure action value is reached without the use of hearing protection. This may assist a duty holder when implementing a risk assessment in a pub or a night club.

Table 2

Noise levels

Average noise levels (dB(A))  Time taken to receive a dose equal to 85 dB(A)
(the upper exposure action value)
85 480 minutes
90 92 minutes
95 45 minutes
100 15 minutes
105 5 minutes
110 under 2 minutes
115 under 30 seconds

Hearing protection can be sourced from different suppliers and together with the technical information that comes with the hearing protection and the HSE noise calculators (please see on line link) a duty holder can establish if the hearing protection would be suitable for his environment. Please remember that hearing protection is classed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and must be provided free of charge to employees.

For further information, please contact Commercial Team, Public Safety and Regulation, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH. 
Phone: 0191 2787878

Page last updated: 
30 September 2017
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