'Buy Quiet' – HSE vocal across industry against noise-induced hearing loss


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new scheme to encourage businesses and their employees to work together to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Pitched at manufacturers, importers, suppliers and equipment operators, Buy Quiet is the result of discussions with industry by the HSE in March 2010.

The key messages of Buy Quiet are crystallised in a simple, no-nonsense set of measures which will help employers protect their workforce from noise risks.

The initiative's principal goal is to help users meet their obligations to use low-noise equipment wherever possible, and for manufacturers to make more technical advances in their development of new machinery.

For many years, long-term hearing damage due to noise in the workplace has been a major challenge for industry. Although noise levels have come down, exposure remains high enough in some sectors to create an untenable risk of damage.

The personal hearing protection schemes deployed by some firms have proved inadequate since the noise itself is not affected, and while there have been improvements in training and noise guidance literature, there remains much to be done at source by equipment manufacturers.

A particular attraction of the scheme for businesses is that, by 'buying quiet', many will enjoy significant cost benefits over time. Also, the involvement of such businesses will influence their suppliers, the manufacturers, to better focus on how effectively the noise of machinery can be suppressed for the future.

It should be noted that workplace noise is already regulated, by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (CNWR) 2005. This obligates bosses to control risks to their employees' health due to noise exposure. Where the noise is unavoidable, firms should choose the most appropriate equipment and manage its usage to keep the risks to a minimum.

Manufacturers and suppliers are also obliged by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 (SMR) to control noise at source and to take protective measures wherever necessary, while information that accompanies all equipment must promote safe use and how to manage noise risks.

The CNWR sets out employers' responsibilities to manage such risks, with their enforcement the remit of the HSE (in general cases where high exposure can cause hearing damage and unsafe workplaces); local authorities (in music, entertainment, certain industrial units and neighbourhood complaints); the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS, in trade issues); and the Vehicle Certification Agency, which enforces Noise Emission in the Environment by Equipment for use Outdoors Regulations (NEEEOR) on behalf of BIS.

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