Noise - Yleistä

 

General information on topic

Noise refers to audible sound that can pose a hazard or a risk to those who hear it or to others. Loud, persistent noise can lead to hearing loss over time and momentarily prevent workers from hearing sounds that are meant to alert them to danger. Noise also makes conversation more difficult and can lead to misunderstandings. It can prevent workers from concentrating on the task at hand and cause them to make mistakes.

As work-related noise has been known to cause hearing loss and contribute to occupational accidents and as it has been identified as a source of work-related strain, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002) and occupational safety regulations (85/2006 and 831/2005) obligate employers to prevent and minimise the associated risks. In particular, the law lays down action values where, when those values are exceeded, employers must take steps to prevent hearing loss, as well as limit values that should not be exceeded at all. These regulations are designed to transpose the European Noise Directive (2003/10/EC) into Finnish law.

Action values and limit values are used to identify dangerously high levels of noise. The lower and upper exposure action values denote noise levels at which hearing loss can occur. The lower daily noise exposure action value is 80 decibels and the upper daily exposure action value is 85 decibels. The daily noise exposure limit value is 87 decibels.

The lower action value corresponds to the noise exposure of someone who works eight hours each day in an environment where they have to raise their voice in order for a person standing two metres away to be able to make out what they are saying.

The upper action value corresponds to the noise exposure of someone who works eight hours each day in an environment where they have to raise their voice in order for a person standing just one metre away to be able to hear them clearly. Three in 100 individuals who have to work in these kinds of conditions without hearing protectors experience some degree of hearing loss after a period of 10 years.

Noise levels in excess of the limit value can cause instant hearing loss (impulsive noise) or a gradual deterioration over time. Any work that is found to expose employees to noise levels in excess of the limit value must be discontinued immediately, and steps must be taken to avoid any recurrence.

Noise - Työntekijälle

 

Instructions for employee

It is your duty as an employee to

  • avoid making unnecessary noise while working
  • inform your employer of any faults or issues that are causing noise in the workplace
  • eliminate any such faults or issues as instructed by your employer, if it is safe to do so with your training and experience
  • wear hearing protectors as instructed by your employer, if noise levels exceed the upper daily exposure action value (85 dB)
  • attend regular hearing tests performed by your employer’s occupational health care provider, if the noise levels in your work match or exceed the upper action value, and
  • replace any noise protection equipment that must be temporarily removed or deactivated as soon as possible.

You have the right to request hearing protectors if the daily noise exposure in your work exceeds 80 decibels. If your daily noise exposure exceeds 85 decibels, hearing protectors must be worn.

You have the right to request a hearing test if your daily noise exposure exceeds 80 decibels or if the peak sound pressure exceeds 112 pascals (i.e. if the peak sound level exceeds 135 dB) and the exposure is known to pose a risk to your health (in view of your existing medical conditions, other exposure agents or medication).

As the right to attend hearing tests depends on the level of exposure and is based on a risk assessment, you can ask your employer for information about your exposure levels and the results of your risk assessment.

Noise - Työnantajalle

 

Instructions for employer

The law obligates employers to identify all sources of noise, i.e. audible sound that can pose a hazard or a risk to workers’ health or safety, in the workplace, as well as all the individuals who are exposed to noise through their work.

Steps must then be taken to either eliminate the identified sources of noise or to reduce the noise levels or the amount of time that workers are exposed to the noise. If noise is still an issue after these steps have been taken, a noise risk assessment must be carried out to determine the impact of the noise on workers’ health and safety.

Employers whose employees are exposed to noise through their work have a duty to

  • identify the sources of noise in the workplace
  • eliminate all noise exposure agents that can be eliminated
  • assess and, if necessary, measure their employees’ exposure to noise
  • evaluate the impact of noise exposure to their employees’ health and safety
  • eliminate or at least minimise any hazards and risks posed by noise exposure
  • compare the employees’ exposure levels against the noise exposure action values and limit values
  • take the steps required by law if any of the action values is exceeded
  • take immediate action to reduce exposure or to protect workers if any of the limit values is exceeded
  • identify the reasons for the overexposure and amend the protection and prevention measures in order to avoid any recurrence on that basis, and
  • establish and implement a noise control programme if the upper action value is exceeded.

It is also the employer’s responsibility to ensure that any employees who are exposed to noise levels equal to or in excess of 85 decibels or to a peak sound pressure equal to or in excess of 140 pascals (i.e. peak sound levels equal or in excess of 137 dB) attend regular hearing tests.

Employers have a duty to provide instruction and training

Workers who are exposed to noise levels that match or exceed the lower action value must be given training and instruction on the sources of noise in the workplace and how to avoid the associated hazards and risks.

Employees have the right to know how the employer has evaluated their noise exposure risk and what conclusions the employer has drawn from the assessment.

It is the employer’s duty to ensure that each of their employees who is exposed to noise levels that match or exceed the lower exposure action value are told about

  • the hazards and risks posed by noise
  • the circumstances in which noise exposure can occur in the workplace and the steps taken to eliminate and minimise the risk
  • the noise exposure action values and limit values
  • the results of the employer’s noise risk assessment and exposure measurements and their implications from the workers’ perspective
  • the correct way to wear hearing protectors
  • the symptoms of potential health issues resulting from noise exposure and the self-diagnosis of associated medical conditions
  • the individuals to whom symptoms and health issues resulting from noise exposure should be reported and how
  • ways to minimise noise exposure in their work, and
  • their right or duty to attend regular hearing tests performed by the employer’s occupational health care provider.

Noise - Lainsäädäntö

 

Legislation

Government Decree on the protection of workers from risks arising from noise (85/2006, in Finnish)

Government Decree on the Safety of Machinery (400/2008, in Finnish)

  • Section 5 – Obligations of the manufacturer or their authorised representative
  • Annex I, section 1.5.8. Noise
  • Annex I, section 1.7.4.2. Contents of the instructions, paragraph v