How to apply the hierarchy of control to noise hazards
By Joanna Weekes
Noise in the workplace is a common hazard and the most common control measure is wearing PPE for hearing protection, but this can often develop into a standard safe operating procedure that establishes itself in the workplace and is never reviewed – be mindful not to let this happen!
Today we will be looking at how to apply the hierarchy of control to noise hazards in your workplace.
There are six stages in the hierarchy of control so please read on to see the process for going through each stage when trying to find the most effective way to reduce a noise hazard:
How to reduce hazards associated with noise in the workplace
Stage 1: Eliminate the noise
Can the process or plant that generates the noise be replaced completely? For example, can the process be changed so that it doesn’t create a noise hazard at all?
If the noise cannot be eliminated…
Stage 2: Substitute the noise
Can the production process be undertaken in a different, quieter way, or with different plant that does not make as much noise when operated?
If the noise cannot be made quieter through substitution…
Stage 3: Isolate the noise
Can you apply something that can muffle the noise or create an encasing around the source of the noise that will contain the noise but still allow access for operation and maintenance?
If the noise cannot be eliminated or minimised by isolating it…
Stage 4: Engineer out the noise
Can the source of the noise be relocated to an area where it will not expose workers in the vicinity to a hazard (although in this case, neighbours would then need to be taken into consideration as well)?
If an engineering modification cannot reduce the noise level…
Stage 5: Implement administrative controls
Use inductions and signage to inform everyone in the area that it is a noise hazard zone and precautions are needed to prevent potential hearing loss – this is not a very effective control in this example.
If administrative controls are not enough…
Stage 6: Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)
Provide hearing protection to all employees and visitors in the noisy area, and make sure they wear it. This involves information, instruction, training and record-keeping of the PPE.
Remember that the provision of PPE to your workers as a control measure should complement other control measures you have in place to reduce the risk caused by the hazard – PPE and administrative controls should not be the only measures taken to control risk.
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