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Your Guide to Ear Protection at Work

Personal protective equipment for the workplace covers many aspects of protecting your health and safety, but none is overlooked quite as much as protecting your hearing. It’s estimated that an incredible 1 million employees in the UK alone are putting their hearing at risk in the workplace every single day. Prolonged exposure to dangerous volumes of noise over a period of time can lead to tinnitus or complete or partial loss of hearing.

If you’re concerned about the risk noise poses for yourself or your employees, then check out our thorough guide on ear protection & PPE at work below. We’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to stay safe in the workplace.

What do I need to know as an employer?

Before you provide your employees with any protective equipment to wear in the workplace, you must first ensure that you’ve gone to every effort to reduce noise and the risks associated with it. This can include, but isn’t limited to, considering alternative processes, machinery or methods. Find an extensive list of advice from the government on how to reduce noise here.

Once you’ve established that you’ve taken all the necessary precautions you can to control noise, but your employees will still be exposed to a loud level of noise, it’s time to take the next steps.

You’ll need to put together a plan of action, explaining how you will control exposure to dangerous levels of noise. This will include issuing industry standard hearing protection to your employees, as well as offering hearing check ups. When purchasing hearing protection, we would recommend looking for products which comply to the EN 352 Hearing Protection standard.

If you’re unsure what is classed as a dangerous level of noise, we cover this below.

What do I need to know as an employee or contractor?

Thanks to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, your employer should take every preventative measure possible to reduce the risk from noise in your work environment. However, due to the nature of particular industries and equipment used, this risk can’t always be completely eliminated. Where this is the case, your employer should provide you with industry standard ear protection such as ear defenders or ear plugs.

If your employer has not provided you with adequate protective equipment, such as ear defenders or ear plugs, and you believe your hearing is at risk due to prolonged exposure to loud noise levels, then we’d recommend approaching your manager or HR department. Remember, adequate protection from dangerous noise levels is a legal requirement and must be taken seriously.

What level of noise is considered a potential risk?

Understanding how loud is ‘too loud’ in the workplace is essential to acknowledging whether ear protection is required or not. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations breaks this down into different ‘action values’, whereby employers are expected to carry out specific measures depending on the specific action values. Let’s take a look:

  • Lower exposure action values

Daily or weekly exposure of at least 80dB.

At this level of volume, an employer must ensure information and training on noise safety is given to all employees, and that hearing protection is made available for use.

  • Upper exposure action values

Daily or weekly exposure of over 85dB.

Anything above this level of volume requires an employer to take as many measures as possible to reduce noise exposure. The use of hearing protection to all employers exposed is also mandatory. If you have workers regularly exposed to over 85dB, you’ll also need to offer them free hearing checks.

  • Exposure limit

Daily or weekly exposure should never exceed 87dB.

We hope this guide has helped you break down exactly what needs to be addressed in your workplace, and how you can keep your employees safe at work. 

If you’re looking to purchase hearing protection for your workplace, we stock a range of safety products including ear defenders, ear plugs, and ear plug dispensers. If you’d like to speak to a member of our team about the best options for your business, please get in touch.

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