Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – Manager Support

It is important to remember that exposure to noise in the workplace can cause permanent hearing damage and Network Rail employees continue to be identified as suffering some level of hearing loss. We therefore need to aim to eliminate or reduce risk to noise at work in order to meet The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005); this includes putting in place measures which reduce exposure and providing your employees with personal protection equipment (PPE).

As a line manager you will need to know which of your employees are at risk of exposure excessive to noise and have an estimate of levels of employees’ exposures. The type of work carried out will, how employees do their work and how it may vary from day to day will all affect exposure levels. This will assist you in being able to identify how to reduce noise exposure. In addition, you will need to determine if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required and when health surveillance is needed.

As a manager, you have a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) to ensure that the health of your people is not adversely affected by the work tasks they are asked to complete. In planning work it is essential to consider elimination of exposure to noise as the most important control measure.

Reducing exposure

There are ways to reduce exposure to noise in the workplace, with the two main controllable factors being equipment and environment:

  • Equipment: Have a process in place which considers how noisy a piece of equipment is when purchasing or hiring equipment. Make sure the equipment is regularly maintained, to ensure that it doesn’t get louder over time and continues to work effectively. Consider noise damping aids to reduce noise levels.
  • Environment: Methods to make the work quieter or using noise enclosures such as barriers and screens should be put in place. Set up noise exclusion zones on worksites with clear guidance to employees for their use. The amount of noise employees spend in noisy areas should also be reduced or limited. One way to do this is to make sure that only employees who need to be in the noisy area are there and the rest are at a safe distance away. Consider noise when planning work especially how the noise levels may change in tunnels or embankments or when working with metal on metal.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Employees are expected to co-operate with the control measures that you have implemented. They should also be supplied with and use the correct PPE.

PPE should be suitable for the working environment, CE marked and compatible with other protective equipment such as hard hats and eye protection. Employees are expected to wear their PPE, when it is required of them, in the correct manner and to look after their PPE. Should they have any defects, these should be reported to you as soon as possible. Like equipment, PPE should also be maintained so that it continues to work effectively. In high risk areas you should make the wearing of hearing protection mandatory.

Employee support

Employees who are frequently exposed to excessive noise may be required to participate in Network Rail’s health surveillance programme, which involves attending annual hearing assessment. For those employees who have been identified as being exposed to excessive noise you will be advised by HRSS that they are required to attend health surveillance. You, as a line manger have a responsibility to make sure they do attend mandatory health surveillance.

Should employees have any concerns about noise in the workplace or their hearing protection, they should be encouraged to report these to you as soon as possible. It is advised that you then refer them to occupational health for an assessment.

You should review the results of the health surveillance regularly to see if there are any recurring problems highlighted which may mean your control measures are not working as well as they should and also need to be reviewed.

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