Noise in the workplace is an occupational hazard that, besides affecting your hearing, can also cause fatigue, stress, sleeping difficulties and cardiovascular disorders and diminish the quality of your work. Certain noise levels can affect concentration, hinder verbal exchange or prevent workers from perceiving warning signs. We all differ in our sensitivity to noise levels: one person can feel auditory discomfort at a noise level that might not disturb others.
Being frequently exposed to loud noise puts us at risk of irreversible hearing loss. In most cases, victims of hearing loss suffer damage during their youth but only feel the consequences on a daily basis much later, when age-related deafness may compound it. By the age of 60, it can be so pronounced that subjects may no longer be able to follow a conversation. Although hearing aids provide valuable support, they can never replace the human ear.
CERN has defined rules that limit the risk of exposure to noise at work, such as the General Safety Instruction on the Protection of Workers against Noise. The corresponding exposure and action limits and the associated actions defined in CERN’s Safety Guideline on Noise are primarily designed to prevent the risk of hearing loss. Hearing is considered to be at risk from a level of 80 decibels during an eight-hour working day. If the instantaneous level is extremely high (over 135 decibels), any exposure, even of very short duration, is dangerous.
Anyone likely to be exposed to noise in their workplace should, together with their supervisor, check the risk exposure level. When all means of collective protection against noise have been exhausted, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used. For PPE to be effective, it needs to sufficiently attenuate the noise to which one is exposed, be as comfortable as possible and be worn before entering and at all times during work in the noisy area. PPE should be removed only after leaving the area. The range of hearing-related PPE available in the CERN stores catalogue has been selected based on the advice of the CERN Medical Service and the acoustics specialist in the HSE unit.
The HSE unit has also established a map of qualitative noise risk levels in CERN buildings. The map is available on the GIS Portal*.
Noise is all around us and, to raise awareness about its impact and how to mitigate it, the Medical Service and the HSE acoustics expert are launching an information campaign. This will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 28 and 30 March and 4 April, at Restaurant 1, Building 774 and Restaurant 2, respectively. Come along to find out more!
For more information and resources concerning noise in the workplace, please visit the HSE webpage: https://hse.cern/safety-risks/noise.