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individual using a router tool wearing full PPE, hearing protection, chainsaw

Exposure to loud noise can temporarily damage hearing or lead to permanently hearing loss. The damage can be disabling as it impacts on understanding speech. This can negatively impact personal life. It can also put people at safety risk at work and in life generally, by not hearing instructions and alarms, or by reducing awareness of traffic or mobile work equipment.

Do you work in a noisy environment?

You might have a noise problem if you:

  • Have to raise you voice to be heard by another person 2 meters away for a least part of the day
  • Work with powered tools or machinery, pneumatic tools, vacuum cleaners, use farm or grounds machinery, or work in a plant room or venue for part of the day.

What to do next?

Explain the noise issue to your manager or supervisor. The risk assessment covering the work activity must identify noise as a hazard, and must include the controls to reduce the risk of noise exposure. Equipment manufacturers must publish noise levels in their instruction manuals to help assess noise hazards. The actual noise level will depend on the work undertaken and equipment maintenance condition.

Action must be taken if the noise level exceeds the daily lower exposure action value, which is 80dB(A weighting) over 8 hours or a peak sound exceeds 135 dB(C weighting). Ask for noise advice from the H&SS team via

Noise risk control measures could include:

  • eliminate the noise source(s) by redesigning the task
  • selecting the right tool for the job to reduce the noise exposure and work duration
  • adopting a “buy quiet” policy when purchasing or hiring equipment
  • engineering to isolate the noise source from the worker – such as absorbing screens or barriers, or use of enclosures
  • limiting the access to noisy areas to authorised workers only
  • limiting the frequency and duration of the noisy work through breaks and task rotation
  • using hearing protection when other the controls are insufficient to reduce risk
  • using health surveillance to monitor hearing changes

What else to do?

Next complete a preliminary noise survey to identify the noise sources and the existing control measures in place. Please return the form to and H&SS will give advice and can arrange a noise assessment is carried out by a competent person.

Health surveillance

If the noise level if found to regularly exceed 85dB(A), health surveillance may be required. If the noise exceeds 80d(B) and the worker’s health makes them more susceptible to noise exposure (e.g. existing hearing loss, tinnitus, exposure to ototoxic substances), health surveillance will also be required. Managers and supervisors can arrange the health surveillance by completing a surveillance enrolment form.

Sources of information

Report an Incident Online
Contact details

Health & Safety Services

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  • 0118 378 8888 
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  • University of Reading

    Health and Safety Services

    Whiteknights House (W027)

    Room G23

    Shinfield Road



    RG6 6UR