European union noise regulations

Related tags Occupational safety and health

European union noise regulations
Food manufacturers are being warned to take early action to avoid falling foul of the new European health and safety regulations which come into...

Food manufacturers are being warned to take early action to avoid falling foul of the new European health and safety regulations which come into force in April 2006.

Although April 6 might seem a long way off, food manaufacturers should start thinking now about whether they need to reduce noise levels in the workplace, says Ron Reid, a partner in law firm Shoosmiths.

Under the new regulations the action level (the noise level at which employers are legally required to take action) will be reduced to 80dB(A), which is the equivalent, says Reid, of someone shouting. Crucially, it is also five decibels lower than current regulations.

And where current regulations state employers should ensure the risk factor is at the lowest level reasonably possible, the new rules will require them to eliminate the noise at source or reduce it to a minimum.

Furthermore employers must carry out noise risk assessments not just where there is noise, but where employees are likely to be exposed to risk.

“These new regulations are going to be a lot easier to get wrong," warns Reid. “And getting it wrong can be an expensive business."

According to Reid the level of claims being made for noise induced hearing loss, which is one of the most common occupational health problems in Europe, is rising fast.

Furthermore, it is not difficult to reach the new action level of 80dB(A), says Reid, who refers to research recently carried out on a pig farm where the noise level was found to be 115dB(A) well above the new limit.

“My advice to manufacturers is to make sure they realise the impact of the new regulations and start thinking about them now, because any changes needed could take some time," he suggests.

But, he reassures, complying with the changes needn’t be a struggle. “Something as simple as tightening loose nuts and bolts around the factory can reduce noise levels dramatically, as one manufacturer found. It’s not rocket science, it just requires planning."

For more information go to http://www.ew2005.osha.eu.int

Related topics Legal