Noise at work can cause hearing damage that is permanent and disabling. This can be hearing loss that is gradual because of exposure to noise over time, but also damage caused by sudden, extremely loud noises. The damage is disabling as it can stop people being able to understand speech, keep up with conversations or use the telephone. Hearing loss is not the only problem. People may develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), a distressing condition which can lead to disturbed sleep.
Noise at work can interfere with communications and make warnings harder to hear. It can also reduce people’s awareness of their surroundings. These issues can lead to safety risks – putting people at risk of injury or death. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the ‘Noise Regulations’) require you to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work. Depending on the level of risk, you should: take action to reduce the noise exposure; and also provide your employees with personal hearing protection and provide the appropriate ear protection signs as required.
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