Constantly high noise levels in the workplace can damage a person's hearing. There is a risk of hearing damage if the noise level is higher than 80 dB(A). The noise level is too high if you have to shout out loud to communicate with another person from a distance of 0.5–1 metre so that you can understand the other person. Noise can also damage your hearing if machines that make a lot of noise are used for a short time or if machines that make less noise are used for a long time.
During an eight-hour working day, the daily noise level to which the worker is exposed must not exceed 85 dB(A). The employer is obliged to carry out noise measurements during the risk assessment of the working environment if the noise level when measured with an indicator device exceeds 80 dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 135 dB(C) is recorded, and to assess the potential health risk to employees based on the measurement results.
If noise cannot be reduced by collective protection measures, the employer must provide the worker with the use of individual hearing protection (headphones, earplugs). If the noise exposure level is 85 dB(A) or more, the use of hearing protection is mandatory.
If workers are exposed to noise in the course of their work, they must undergo a medical examination by an occupational health doctor. The health examination can diagnose hearing damage of the employee caused by noise at an early stage.
See also the Working Life topic page on various personal protective equipment.
Noise can damage hearing and cause stress, high blood pressure, fatigue. Also, too high a noise level can reduce the ability to concentrate, so accidents are more likely to happen and the error rate increases.
Hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus, which is a ringing or other noise in the ears. Tinnitus can be temporary or permanent. It often exhausts the sick person mentally.
Identify the possible problems
In order to identify noise problems, attention must be paid to the level of noise and how long workers are exposed to noise, as well as whether there is short-term noise that is particularly loud (impulse noise).
Consistently high noise levels in the workplace can damage a person's hearing. Noise can also damage your hearing if machines that make a lot of noise are used for a short time or if machines that make less noise are used for a long time.
All persons involved in the construction work may be exposed to noise from other workers working on the same construction site.
Strong noise can be made by, for example, hammer drills (compressed air, electric and hydraulic), bulldozers, plate vibrators, road rollers, asphalt milling machines and cutters.
In masonry, the biggest noise is made by disc cutters and breaker hammers. They are used in the renovation of walls for milling the side surfaces of joints and in renovation works that require the demolition or cutting of walls and concrete. Noise from mixing machines can also be a problem.
Nail guns, impact drill drivers, hammers, circular saws and table saws make noise during carpentry work.
Noise is generated during roofing by gas burners used in the installation of roofing cardboard and by circular saws used for cutting wooden boards.
Many workers also have to endure continuous traffic noise during work, which further increases the burden on the hearing organs.
Noise is more harmful when there is also short-term noise that is very loud. This can be, for example, the sound produced by hammer drills, nail guns and breaker hammers.
Disturbing reverberation in the room means that the acoustics of the room are poor.
As a minimum, the noise level limit value of 85 dB(A) and the impulse noise limit value of 137 dB(C) set by the regulation must be complied with. In addition, any disturbing noise must be attenuated to a minimum.
When starting to reduce the noise, consider the following aspects.
Plan your work so that as few workers as possible are exposed to the noise. Organise work so that each individual worker is exposed to noise for as short a time as possible. Avoid working in areas where noisy work is being performed.
Noise attenuation at the source
When purchasing a device, pay attention to the noise level it produces. If the noise level of the machinery exceeds 70 dB(A), this must be stated in the manufacturer's instruction manual.
Separate noise-producing machines with a noise barrier. Excavator engine noise and noise in the driver's cab can be reduced with sound-absorbing materials.
The compressors can be encapsulated in a box covered with a sound-absorbing material or separated by movable walls made of sound-absorbing material.
If the noise level is too high and cannot be attenuated in any other way, suitable hearing protection must be worn.
With regard to measuring noise, it is important to know that if the measurement result measured by the employer themselves exceeds 80 dB(A), the measurements shall have to be performed by an accredited laboratory, i.e. the traceability of the measurement results shall be provable within the meaning of the Metrology Act.
Not only the noise level (decibels) but also the noise frequency is important when measuring noise. The more information there is about the noise level and frequency of noise, the better employees can be protected from noise, because suitable hearing protection can be purchased based on the specific place of work and its peculiarities. When organising noise measurements, one should consider measuring noise not only in those places of work where noise-generating equipment is used but also in places of work that are further away and where the noise may still exceed the maximum limit value.
Legislation does not provide specific periods after which noise should be re-measured. Noise measurement should be repeated if changes in a place of work may increase the noise level. At the same time, it is important to measure noise even if the noise is reduced in an environment where the maximum limit was exceeded. For example, if a new device is purchased that produces less noise compared to the previous device. In this case, measurement is important if the employer needs to prove years later that an employee’s hearing impairment is not caused by their establishment’s working environment.
Legislation: Regulation ‘Occupational health and safety requirements for the work environment affected by noise, limit values for noise in the work environment and procedure for measuring noise’.