European politicians have cleared the way for a new directive that should
lead to much quieter workplaces and greater hearing protection for workers.
The Noise at Work directive will give the estimated 700,000 British workers
exposed to loud noise at work access to free hearing tests. The directive will
be implemented by the end of 2005.
The new law will prohibit noise levels in the workplace of more than 90 dB
on average, and reduce the noise levels at which action should be taken from 90
to 85 dB.
There will also be a requirement on employers to provide hearing protection
to workers currently exposed to between 80 and 85 dB, as well as extending the right
to hearing tests to a larger group of workers.
The agreement has been welcomed by the TUC, Royal National Institution for
the Deaf and the European Federation of the Hard of Hearing.
A TUC survey recently found that one in five workplace representatives was
concerned about noise in the workplace, with the greatest concerns in the North
West and the Midlands.
The three industries where most concern was expressed were manufacturing (54
per cent), construction (42 per cent) and leisure (33 per cent).