March 21, 2016

Forget the AC/DC… worry about the decibels

Loud employers take heed – the lead singer of rock band AC/DC has been told he could lose his hearing from the band’s deafening noise levels.

The Australian rockers have postponed the remaining U.S gigs on their current world tour.

Brian Johnson, from the North East of England, has been warned by medical professionals that he is at very high risk of “total hearing loss”.

The band wanted to become the loudest band in the world, powered by a full stack of Gibson SG-powered amplifiers.  The band was pumping out noise levels of over 130db on their “Back in Black” tour.

AC/DC’s tour agents asked the band to turn the decibels down, which they reluctantly did, although they are still one of the loudest bands on the planet, unaware of the damage this was causing to Brian’s hearing.

It is not clear at this time as to whether this will be the end of the singer’s musical career but research has proven that top artists are much more at risk of developing noise induced hearing loss through their work than most other industries.

Noise at Work – The Facts

In Great Britain, many employees are exposed to levels of noise at work which may be harmful in the long term exposure.

  • Hearing loss caused by work can be avoided but if you lose your hearing through noise it is unlikely to return.
  • Noise induced hearing loss means people can suffer with ringing in the ears, this is known as tinnitus.
  • There are roughly 17,000 people in the UK who are suffering with deafness, tinnitus and other ear related conditions as a result of excessive noise at work.

What can the employer do to reduce risk to their employees?

If your business has noise identified as a hazard through your risk assessments, you will be required to introduce suitable and sufficient control measures

There are many cost-effective ways of being able to protect your employees.

First, think about how to remove the loud noise altogether, do whatever you can to control the noise at it’s source, you should consider trying to redesign the workplace and reorganising work processes.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should, in the workplace, only be used as a last resort for your employees and others who may be at risk due to your noisy work processes.

In most engineering type industries, machinery and moving parts are a normal part of your business so it is not often possible to reduce the noise levels to a safe level, it would be these circumstances when you need to use PPE as a control, good signage and training for your employees will also be required especially at induction for new employees.

You should also consider people who do not work in these noisy areas everyday but also employees or contractors who may need to go into the noisy areas occasionally, it is most important that they are fully aware of the risks to their hearing.

You may also need to have a noise survey done to help you identify the noisy areas and processes, this survey will identify the actual decibels, there are two upper levels which need to be actioned by the employer and it is important that you establish if these levels are exceed by your tasks and processes.

80dB(A)

If you think that your process noise levels are higher than 80db(A) but not as high as 85db(A) then you should have a noise survey done.  As an employer, you would need to;

  • Provide your employees with training and information about the health risks of working in this level of noise.
  • The employer would then need to provide, free of charge, the correct hearing protection.  The employee would then need to decide if they want to use it or not.

85dB(A)

If the noise levels exceed this level, the employer must:

  • Issue the correct hearing protection and enforce the wearing of it at all times during exposure in the identified areas.
  • Ensure that the correct signage is in place warning or the noise levels and that the wearing of the PPE is mandatory whilst in the identified areas.
  • Identify other means or reducing the noise levels from the tasks or processes where possible.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations became law in Great Britain on 6 April 2006.

These regulations were introduced to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work.

More Information

For advice and guidance on ensuring that your business is legally compliant in providing and maintain a safe place of work or to check your health and safety management programmes are suitable and sufficient, contact us or call 0845 184 4615.

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About the author

Michael Sturgess