Published January 2024
This version replaces ‘Guidance for Health Management with Noise’ published in 2015.
In the geotechnical and geo-environmental sector noisy environments can apply to both site based and laboratory operations. For example, on site, the use of drilling rigs and dynamic sampling rigs (particularly when undertaking SPTs or U100 samples), the use of breaker packs, drills and compactors. In the laboratory, noisy tests may include vibrating rammer equipment or working close to compressed air units.
It may also be that work is undertaken on sites where other activities are taking place, such as demolition, construction sites, manufacturing plants, quarries or mines, all contributing to cumulative generate noise.
Exposure to noise at work can cause permanent and temporary hearing impairment. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) – hearing loss is usually gradual due to prolonged exposure to noise, although immediate damage can also be caused by sudden, extremely loud noise. The damage caused is often only noticed when it becomes severe enough to interfere with daily life. NIHL is incurable.
- Tinnitus – may occur in combination with hearing loss, it’s a sensation of noises in the ears such as ringing or buzzing. This can also lead to insomnia, depression, and anxiety as secondary impacts.
- Temporary threshold shift – is a hearing loss which shows some recovery within 24-48 hours after the noise exposure stops. Hearing loss which persists for more than 30 days after the noise exposure is considered to be permanent threshold shift since recovery after this period is unlikely. NIHL is a form of permanent threshold shift, as is age-related hearing loss.
In addition to the direct effects that noise can have on your health, noise at work can also interfere with communications in the workplace, making warnings and alarms difficult to hear, and reduce a person’s awareness of their surroundings, increasing risk of harm of those affected and those that are around them.
Hearing loss can lead to workers being deemed or certified unsuitable for certain tasks / roles within industry where Client organisations require a minimum level of hearing as a pre-requisite for employment either as an employee or contractor.
For those working within the geotechnical and geo-environmental industry whom experience exposure to noise, work-related hearing loss is 100% preventable. Those working within the industry must not experience hearing loss as a result of their occupation through the implementation of management controls, not just PPE.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 requires the elimination or reduction of risks to health and safety from noise in the workplace. Depending on the level of risk this may entail actions to eliminate the noise exposure or provide all employees with adequate hearing protection. Guidance on compliance can be found within the Health & Safety Executive document: Controlling noise at work – L108 (hse.gov.uk).