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Noise and Vibration at Work Regulations: How Do You Measure Up?

22 July 2014

Awareness of noise and vibration risks in the workplace (noise induced hearing loss, tinnitus and hand arm vibration syndrome) is increasing. In fact, since the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and the Control of Vibration at Work Regulation 2005 were introduced noise at work and vibration at work have become more specialised health and safety topics.

In a 2008 report prepared for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) a sample of UK businesses were judged on their noise and vibration compliance levels. Evidence suggested that while many UK companies were acting appropriately, many more needed to improve.

According to the HSE, several common failings are the most significant barriers to compliance with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005:

•    Failure to appoint a person with responsibility for protecting staff hearing and with sufficient authority to ensure that a noise at work management plan is maintained;
•    A lack of continuous improvement;
•    Insufficient awareness training;
•    Inadequate noise surveys that do not provide accurate and suitable information with which noise exposures can be estimated.

The Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre (INVC) Ltd are a UK based consultancy with a long-standing reputation for noise and vibration control expertise – they would add to the HSE’s list of failings that there are many common compliance myths in circulation, particularly with regard to Hand Arm Vibration data and PPE. Gill Cussons, a senior acoustic engineering consultant for INVC, says:

“Most UK organisations fall into three categories when it comes to noise at work or vibration at work: those who manage their obligations extremely well because they have relevant skills; those who think they are acting appropriately but unfortunately aren’t and those who, admittedly or not, don’t prioritise the regulations. Today, many organisations fall into the first or second category. Typically those businesses with compliance failures aren’t placing enough emphasis on risk reduction. Thankfully though, all kinds of organisations - from large to small - are now increasing their efforts to meet their obligations correctly”.

When it comes to your own organisation, practical advice would be to consider the following 10 compliance and risk reduction tips:

•    Appoint a responsible person and budget appropriately for managing noise or vibration in the workplace;
•    Set out a plan for tackling compliance;
•    Be sure to use suitable measurement equipment – while you don’t necessarily need the best the there is, some instruments lack the specification required for collecting accurate and relevant data;
•    Be sure you know correct measurement techniques – incorrect use of a meter, however subtle, can skew data and leave you vulnerable to claims or non-compliance warnings;
•    Implement noise control or vibration control measures and signage where necessary;
•    Use PPE as a last resort when dealing with noise at work and remember that despite claims to the contrary, there is no suitable PPE for dealing with vibration at work.
•    Carefully consider the suitability of different types of PPE for dealing with noise at work –it is crucial to make educated choices;
•    Make sure you understand the difference between a good survey and a bad one, because the HSE will hold your organisation - not any external consultancy - to account for compliance failures;
•    Manage your own compliance on an ongoing basis – even if you use a consultant to provide you with data and recommendations.
Many organisations are benefitting from the noise training and vibration training organised by Focus Health and Safety. Companies such as Rolls Royce, Vauxhall Motors and Keller have joined public organisations like Edinburgh Leisure and Newcastle University on our courses, along with many smaller firms too. Focus Health and Safety provides these courses at a number of locations around the UK and all are tutored by INVC. There are two IOSH accredited courses on offer:
•    Noise at Work Competency Training, 4.5 Days and;
•    Vibration at Work Competency Training, 2 Days.

Successful completion of either course leads to a well-recognised IOSH certificate in Risk Assessment and Management. As many previous delegates would testify, this qualification is now almost a prerequisite for dealing with noise at work or vibration at work.

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