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If you're over the legal noise rating limit then read this now!

by , 08 April 2013
Make sure your workplace noise is kept at the right levels so you don't end up with an inbox full of COID claims from employees experiencing hearing loss.
If the courts find you guilty of neglecting to comply with your obligations, they could sentence you to prison for up to six months!
Put the correct rules in place to minimise such incidents and protect yourself from liabilities.
Start by making sure you know how much noise your employees are exposed to. And put measures in place to protect your staff from dangerous exposure to noise.

It's a legal requirement. You must identify hazards and assess risks in your company
Do you know how to compile a risk assessment?
A comprehensive risk assessment must be compiled for your workplace. Doing this will allow you to protect your employees from health and safety hazards, and save yourself from a R100 000 fine, two years in jail or even both!

If you don't test the sound levels at your workplace, you could be forcing  your staff to listen to the equivalent of a Vuvuzela or a lawn mower all day
85 decibels (dB) is the maximum legal noise-rating limit that any person can be exposed to. That's only slightly softer than the sound of a lawn mower (at 90 dB).
Expose employees or even visitors to your site, to any equipment or heavy machinery (such as those used in a grain factory) that exceeds the legal rate, and you could face some pretty heavy penalties!
But if you follow these 3 simple rules you'll stay on the right side of the law.
3 simple measures that will keep you on the right side of the law!
Implement these 3 measures:
  1. Do an assessment at your site to measure the noise level. Identify any areas that are at (or above) the 85 dB limit.
  2. Demarcate any areas that exceed the legal rating as noise zones.  Do this with signage, such as a sign stating 'you are now entering a noise zone, use ear protection'. (Regulation 12, NIHL Regulations).
  3. Make sure employees or visitors that enter a noise zone wear hearing protective equipment (or PPE) (NIHL, Regulation 12 – Hearing Protective Equipment). I'll tell you more about this later!
Don't think you can get away with doing a once-off assessment.
You're required by law to do the assessments at regular intervals – at least once every two years.
Here's a question from a reader who complied with all these rules – except one. And as you'll see, the DoL almost shut his company down!

Your employee PPE duties
Why regular noise assessments are necessary
Our company processes grain, using various machinery and equipment. We hired an approved noise inspector to assess our workplace. He found that we were above the maximum limit. A follow-up assessment showed the same results.
We've given our workers the necessary hearing protective equipment. And we've demarcated the zone as a noise zone.
But we can't do much more to reduce the noise level without switching off the machines! So do we need to continue with noise assessments, if it's obvious there'll be no changes in the noise levels?
Yes, you must carry out the assessments regularly, regardless of the fact that your noise levels aren't likely to drop unless you switch off the machines.
The reason why you're obliged by law to conduct the assessments regularly, is to protect you from COID claims. After all, the assessments serve as proof that you've met all your obligations. It also gives evidence of the actual noise levels in your workplace – something that will be investigated if a COID claim is brought against you.
Remember, the Department of Labour can show up at any time and demand to inspect your premises. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in fines and even imprisonment!
So make sure you follow the rules!
In Chapter N02 – Noise Regulations in Occupational Health of your Health and Safety Advisor we show you step-by-step how to comply with your obligations so you don't end up with COID claims on your desk or penalties from DoL inspectors.
The chapter covers:
  • Your responsibilities for managing noise
  • Your employee's responsibilities for managing noise
  • Measures to prevent/minimise noise-induced hearing loss and ensure compliance
  • How to implement a hearing-conservation programme
  • Conduct regular audiograms
  • Operating procedure for audiogram results.
The Health and Safety Advisor also has the following related topics:
  • Noise Pollution in Chapter N01
  • DoL Inspections: Noise Induced Hearing Loss Regulations (NIHL Regulations) in Chapter D05
If you're not a subscriber to the Health and Safety Advisor, what are you waiting for? Click here to order the loose leaf, and you'll see just how powerful our advice really is!
Until the next time,
Stay safe.

Kerusha Narothan

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