Noise Induced Hearing Loss is a major issue in workplaces all over the world. It is estimated that over one million employees in Great Britain are exposed to noise levels at work that may be harmful. Most organisations in the EU take steps to protect their workers’ hearing, but are the actions appropriate and based on accurate noise measurements? The bottom line is that not all workplace noise measurement equipment is up to the task of providing adequate monitoring data, both from the worker protection point of view and that of the legal standpoint.
When undertaking workplace noise measurements it is extremely important to consider carefully the performance and compliance of the meters being used. While it is understandable that users may be attracted low cost meters it is important to consider suitability under the requirements of EU Directive 2003/10/EC. In the worst case scenario, noise measurements made using non-compliant sound level meters will not be acceptable for use in court proceedings..
Limits for exposure to noise are set by the European Parliament in its Directive 2003/10/EC. The directive stipulates that a sound level meter must be fully compliant with every part of the international standard (IEC 61672). There are many hundreds of very low cost sound level meters available on the market that claim to comply with this standard, but alas, do not.
Noise monitoring equipment compliance
The Noise at Work regulations IEC6172-1: 2002 state that ‘The specification available to manufacturers [of sound level meters] is a comprehensive document and one that MANDATES that any sound level meter be fully verified for measurement accuracy, ideally by the manufacturer at least every 24 months. It is no defence for a company to say “I did not realise my meter did not comply”, as parts 2 and 3 of IEC 61672 show what to look for.
Sound level meters are tested by specialist testing houses. Successful tests result in the granting of a Type Approval Certificate. Approval can be difficult to get and meters made by some of the very best manufacturers can fail the tests at the first attempt.
Unless the test is passed, the meter won’t comply with the directive. These tests are very expensive – a sum in excess of £20,000 is not unusual – and some manufacturers choose not to submit their instruments for testing. Most of these low cost sound meters are simply not verified, so it is almost impossible to know if they measure noise accurately or not.
The importance of pattern approval
Pattern Approval is a formal certificate of compliance, issued by a qualified government laboratory, assuring the user or potential buyer that a sound level meter meets the standard claimed for it. Only a handful of top manufacturers meet the conditions for pattern approval. Some of the low cost units on the market are some way away from meeting pattern approval and the potential errors in noise measurement mean that workers’ hearing may be placed at risk.
The need for acoustic calibration of sound level meters
Acoustic calibrators are essential pieces of equipment that facilitate the checking of the sensitivity of sound level meters to ensure that they are accurate. Without the use of a calibrator it is impossible to know if a sound level meter is reading within the required parameters, even if the meter is fully approved and was supplied by a major manufacturer. The regulations stipulate that noise meters must be calibrated using an external acoustic calibrator before and after every formal usage.
Employees and ex-employees are now more willing to come forward and take action against employers if they feel they have been put at risk of noise induced hearing loss at work. The claims culture that has emerged in the last few years is also encouraging people to take legal action against employers that have failed in their duty of care.
If you are an employer, it is essential that you take all necessary steps to protect your employees from noise that could damage hearing. That is the number one priority. It therefore makes sense to use noise monitoring equipment that will produce reliable results, and ones that will stand up to legal scrutiny if required.
To find out more about the compliant range of sound level meters and noise dosimeters available from Pulsar, visit Pulsar Instruments Plc. To enquire further and to obtain expert and friendly advice, please contact the team on +44 1723 518011.
Is Your Workplace Noise Measurement Equipment Compliant? By PPE.
Contains information published by kind permission of Pulsar Instruments Plc.
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0