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Workplace Noise Control and Assessment: Dermot Moloney MSc, BSc, MIOA, MIEnvSc, MInstSCE, CSci. Safety practitioners often refer to the unmistakable adage: ‘prevention is better than cure’ and avoiding noise ‘at source’ is the obvious and preferred option. Directive 89/391/EEC (the Framework Directive) provides a well-defined hierarchy for implementing preventative measures, with risk avoidance assuming top priority. An example of a hierarchical control system for construction noise is presented in Appendix I and is based upon many published systems, as adapted by the author. • the results of the assessment and measurements of noise and an explanation of their significance and the potential risks • the correct use of hearing protectors • why and how to detect and report signs of hearing damage

Notwithstanding the 1989 Directive’s provisions, there is widespread recognition that in many workplaces Hearing Protection Devices (HPD) will continue to be an essential component of the control mechanisms. Risk Assessment and training are also recognised as key requirements and many employers do not fulfil their basic obligations. Training should be addressed in terms of the expertise of the risk assessment and in terms of the training needs of employees. In terms of the latter, it is essential that occupational noise training should always address the following issues: • the  nature of the risks resulting from exposure to noise • the  organisational and technical measures taken to eliminate noise at source and/or reduce it to a minimum • the relevant exposure limit values and exposure action values

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• the  circumstances in which health surveillance is made available (audiometric testing) working practices to minimise • safe  exposure to noise It is noteworthy that the forgoing details have not been extracted from an idealised training manual or from a research paper. They have in fact been extracted (almost verbatim) from Regulation 130 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007. In essence, the stated issues constitute the absolute minimum content for the training which must be provided to any employee whose daily personal noise exposure equals or exceeds 80 dBA. Many employers, safety officers and consultants may have difficulties in addressing risk assessments for noise

and/or communicating the findings of an assessment. The obligations of an acoustic or health and safety consultant in this regard need to be addressed under the concept of ‘a competent person’, as prescribed by the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act. In essence, the competent person is defined in terms of the suitability of their training, experience and knowledge, so as to provide informed and appropriate advice. The complexity of the environment or workplace and/or the selection of appropriate noise controls may in some instances have a major bearing on the question of competency. All employers have a duty under health and safety law to reduce the risk of hearing damage to their employees by controlling exposure to noise. In many instances, it may be essential that a competent risk assessment is undertaken. In practice, much of the noise assessment and survey work which is routinely undertaken falls far short of the required standard. In fact,

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