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Common mistakes put hearing at risk

08 April 2021

NOISE IN the workplace poses significant risks to people's hearing. Without the right tools and equipment to understand your workplace's noise levels, you could be leaving employees open to suffering from hearing loss. Cirrus Research outlines the five most common mistakes employers make when it comes to noise in the workplace.

1) Not taking noise seriously

Regardless of the industry or sector, every employer is bound by health and safety legislation and regulations. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 set out the measures that employers must follow to protect their workforce from the dangers excessive noise levels present and are legally enforceable.

85dB(A) is the level at which hearing protection is required by law. It may seem as though 85 decibels is quite a lot, but when you consider that it's the same noise level as a petrol-powered lawnmower, it quickly becomes apparent just how prevalent the risk of noise is. At 85 decibels, you only have 8 hours' worth of exposure before permanent damage is done to your hearing. To provide a bit more context, those who work in the emergency services are potentially exposed to 120 decibels when sirens are sounding. The maximum exposure time at 120 decibels, without protection, is nine seconds.

The regulations state that measures must be in place to control and reduce the amount of noise someone experiences throughout their working day. You might be thinking: "how am I supposed to know what the noise levels are?" Thankfully, Cirrus Research provides easy-to-use instruments that will help you identify where people are most at risk, allowing you to put measures in place to reduce the risk of someone suffering from noise-related health issues at work.

Using a sound level meter to carry out an initial investigation of your workplace is a great way to determine whether you need to measure the noise more regularly and help you decide what, if any, remedial action you need to take. 

How can Cirrus Research help?

As a world leader in the noise measurement industry for more than 50 years, Cirrus Research offers a comprehensive range of easy-to-use and reliable equipment to suit all budgets and requirements. All Cirrus Research instruments meet the necessary standards, so you can have confidence they will provide you with the data you need to make effective decisions that will protect your employees. An industry-leading worry-free warranty backs every piece of equipment sold by Cirrus Research. Your investment will be protected; whatever happens, no questions asked.

2) Not using the right instruments

You might be aware of your obligations under health and safety law but might not want to spend a lot on noise measurement equipment. When there are so many options available on the Internet and even mobile phone apps, why would you look to make a more substantial investment?

The answer is simple.

The legislation also dictates that for noise measurements to be legally compliant, the instruments you use must meet a minimum standard. For example, UK legislation dictates that manufacturers must make sound level meters to meet IEC 61672 and that any microphone used for occupational noise measurements must be, at a minimum, Class 2.

Many of the cheaper options available from the Internet won't be anywhere near meeting these standards, and mobile phone applications certainly won't. The investment in the right equipment may be more significant. However, it will ensure that the data you are capturing is accurate, reliable and will stand up to scrutiny in any litigation should an employee make a complaint. Of course, having the correct instrumentation is about protecting your employees, but it's about protecting your business too.

It's also essential to choose the right sort of noise measurement instrument. You may need to use a sound level meter to measure how loud a piece of machinery is and a noise dosimeter to measure an individual's daily noise exposure. You will also need to ensure that your instrument provides all the necessary noise data to understand the noisescape in your workplace fully.

How can Cirrus Research help? 

All equipment manufactured and supplied by Cirrus Research meets international standards and guidelines, meaning you can use it no matter where you are in the world, safe in the knowledge that your data is accurate, reliable and compliant. We can also help you decide what sort of equipment is best suited to your needs, whether it's a sound level meter, noise dosimeters or a longer-term installation.

All our occupational noise solutions are provided with our noise data analysis and reporting software, NoiseTools, free of any licensing restrictions. NoiseTools can be installed on as many computers as required and offers in-depth reporting and analysis tools to all the members of your team. From NoiseTools, you can create detailed reports to share with key internal stakeholders and use the information it provides to make better-informed decisions on what, if any, remedial action you need to take to reduce the noise risk in your workplace. 

Find out more about Cirrus Research's range of sound level meters:


Find out more about Cirrus Research’s range of noise dosimeters:


Find out more about Cirrus Research’s licence-free data analysis and reporting software: 


3) Not measuring noise correctly

Once you have ensured you have the right equipment, you need to make sure you are using it correctly. Failure to do so will inevitably affect the data you are capturing and could ultimately lead to ineffective control measures being put in place, having no effect on the risk posed to your employees.

What sort of data do you need to capture? What areas do you need to measure? How does the instrument need to be set up? How can you be sure you have measured correctly?

How can Cirrus Research help?

Cirrus Research offers a range of training programmes, from product-specific training to noise at work and environmental noise awareness courses. We want you to have all the knowledge at your disposal so that you are completely confident and competent at protecting your people from the dangers of exposure to excessive noise. If you have any questions about your instruments or the best way to use them, our friendly in-house team is always happy to help on an ad-hoc basis.

Our training sessions can be offered both on-site and remotely, and you find out more about them here:https://www.cirrusresearch.co.uk/training/

4) Not calibrating your noise measurement instruments

You will know that it's essential to have a car MOT tested and serviced to make sure that it's safe and running as it should be, and also because it's the law. The same applies to your noise measurement equipment. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 state that for your data to be considered accurate and reliable, the instrument must be "field calibrated" before and after each measurement and "factory calibrated" at least every two years. 

Field calibration ensures that your instrument accounts for any minor fluctuations in the microphone that happen naturally or could have been caused by small knocks and bumps that occur as part of everyday use. Factory calibration puts every feature and function of your equipment to the test against incredibly high standards, ensuring that any significant discrepancies are eradicated, ensuring your instruments' accuracy and reliability.

How can Cirrus Research help?

All equipment supplied by Cirrus Research for occupational noise measurements can be purchased alongside an acoustic calibrator, which will allow you to field calibrate your instruments. We also provide calibrators as standalone pieces of equipment, so you can always add more to your fleet should you need them.

Cirrus Research offers two levels of factory calibration as a recognised acoustic calibration laboratory: standard-traceable and UKAS-accredited (lab number 10148). The level you choose will depend on the environment/sector you work in, what internal guidelines you must meet, and how strict you need the calibration process. Just as with the instruments themselves, there are several cheaper alternatives around, but you must be careful about which you choose. Many of these cheaper options merely perform a field calibration rather than a proper factory calibration, which could leave you open to legal challenges should you ever have a complaint brought against you.

Here at Cirrus Research, we calibrate instruments from any manufacturer, so you don't need to have our equipment to take advantage of our in-house acoustic technicians' knowledge, skill, and expertise. They will make any necessary adjustments to your instruments should they fail their calibration, so you'll have them returned to you in full working order. If your equipment needs any repairs and is still covered by a Cirrus Research warranty, the team will fix them wherever they can – all at no extra charge!

Find out more about our acoustic calibrators: https://www.cirrusresearch.co.uk/products/acoustic-calibrators/

Find out more about our acoustic calibration laboratory: https://www.cirrusresearch.co.uk/service-and-calibration/

5) Not trying to control noise risks in the first place

Remember, even if you provide your staff with hearing protection, the risk is still present; simply providing PPE is not enough to ensure that you have adequately protected your team from the dangers that noise presents. Many employers offer inadequate hearing defenders, either under-protecting staff or over-protecting them. It may seem as though it is difficult to have too much protection. However, if your team operates heavy machinery, over-protection could mean that they cannot hear safety alarms or their colleagues attracting their attention to potential danger. As a result, hearing protection should always be the last resort; your priority is to reduce the noise levels.

As an employer, it is your obligation under health and safety law to put measures in place to control the risks that noise presents, preferably by reducing workplace noise levels. If that's not possible, every effort should be made to ensure that an individual's exposure to noise is limited, using the maximum exposure limit rules.

How can Cirrus Research help?

If you are unsure how best to reduce the noise risks in your workplace, one of our acoustic experts can arrange to visit your site and conduct an initial noise survey. They will produce a preliminary report and offer guidance on the next steps you need to take. Your advice may be something small like altering shift patterns for your staff or something more significant such as investing in quieter machinery.

Cirrus Research has been providing comprehensive noise solutions for clients across the world for 50 years. We can offer you everything you need to measure, monitor and control noise in the workplace and the environment. All you have to do is get in touch with a member of our team, and they'll be more than happy to help. 

Cirrus Research's UKAS accreditation is limited to those activities described on its UKAS schedule of accreditation found here.

For more information, visit www.cirrusresearch.com