A viola player who was forced to give up his musical career after sustaining a life changing hearing injury at rehearsals at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London in 2012 has won a landmark control of noise at work case against his employer.
The viola player was situated in front of the 18 person brass section in the cramped orchestra pit when he sustained the acoustic shock injury. The Royal Opera House had provided orchestra members with hearing protection but did not enforce its use.
It was ruled that the Royal Opera House had breached the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 by failing to adequately control the risk of high noise exposure. The judgment made it clear that an orchestra cannot be distinguished from a factory in terms of a work environment when considering obligations to protect workers from noise risk.
Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
Employers have a legal duty to comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work.
The Regulations lay down key limits for noise exposure. These are:
- Lower exposure action values
- Daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB
- Peak sound pressure of 135 dB
- Upper exposure action values
- Daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB
- Peak sound pressure of 137 db
Employers’ Responsibilities under the Regulations
Employers have a legal duty to:
- Assess the risks to workers from noise at work.
- Reduce noise exposure.
- Provide employees with hearing protection, where required, if noise exposure cannot be reduced by other methods.
- Ensure that the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded.
- Provide workers with information, instruction and training.
- Carry out health surveillance where levels indicate it is required.
When is Hearing Protection Mandatory?
If noise measurements are at 85dB or above, employers have a legal requirement to provide ear protection and the area that it must be worn needs mandatory signs. Employers should regularly check that workers are wearing the hearing protection.
To conclude, workers who regularly work in noisy environments that have a lower daily/ weekly exposure of 80 dB or an upper daily/ weekly exposure of 85 dB must be protected. It is imperative that employers assess the risks to workers and implement procedures to protect workers from hearing damage which if left unchecked can leave workers with life changing hearing injuries and leave employers vulnerable to legal action.
If you require any further guidance on how to comply with your legal duties with regards to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, please contact our Wirehouse Health and Safety Consultants today.