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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Element IB6:

Physical Agents 1
Noise and Vibration

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Contents
Noise
Noise Terminology
The Hearing Mechanism and the Effects of Sound
Audiometry
Legal Duties
Measuring Noise
Assessment of Noise Exposure
Noise Exposure
Carrying Out a Noise Assessment
Noise Control
Health Surveillance

5
5
11
15
17
18
19
20
23
27
39

Types of Vibration
Vibration Physics
Effects and Risk Factors
Vibration Assessment and Measurement
Controls
Conclusions

Vibration

41
41
41
42
46
52
55

References

56

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Noise
The general meaning of the term noise as defined within the ILO C148, Working Environment
Convention 1977, covers all sound which can result in hearing impairment or be harmful to
health or otherwise dangerous.
Sound is a physical sensation perceived by the individual and resulting from pressure variations
in the air. Invariably these pressure variations are produced by a vibrating source which may
be solid (loudspeaker) or resulting from turbulence in the air, such as created through exhaust
emissions. Noise then is often and simplistically described as unwanted sound or sound which
is especially disturbing (Collins, 1993).
Sounds and noises are important in everyday life. At moderate levels they are harmless, but
if they are too loud they can permanently damage hearing. The risk of injury is dependent on
loudness and exposure time. Hearing damage may build up gradually and may go unnoticed
from one day to another, but once the damage is done there is no cure.
Often in sound measurement and analysis very large or very small numbers have to be dealt
with. In order to avoid having numbers with many zeros commonly the mathematical term 10x
is used, where 100 = 1 x 102 and 520,000 = 5.2 x 105.

Noise Terminology
Sound waves are propagated in air by sequentially compressing the adjacent air molecules
causing a pressure change. Each compression is subsequently followed by a spreading out
of the molecules which is known as a rarefaction. This longitudinal waveform moves through
space at a speed determined principally by the characteristics of the air in which the sound
wave is travelling. For the purpose of general calculations indoors it is accurate enough to
accept the speed of sound in air as a constant value of 330 m/s.
Figure 1: Sound Waves
Figure 1: Sound Waves
Frequency
(Pitch / Tone)

Amplitude
(Loudness)

Pressure

Time

Intensity Level

dB

Example

(the number of times louder


than the threshold of
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hearing)
100,000,000,000,000

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140

Jet Engine

Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Frequency
The frequency of a sound of a single tone is determined by the complete number of compressions
and rarefactions passing a point in space each second. This measure of the sound is given in
Hertz (Hz) and is perceived by the listener as pitch. The human hearing mechanism has a finite
range of perception of pitch and varies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz or 20 kHz, but is most sensitive
in the range of 4 to 6 kHz.

Wavelength
The wavelength of a sound is the distance required to complete one cycle of the wave. Since
this is a measurement of distance, the wavelength and the frequency are inextricably linked.
The relationship is based on the fact that the longer the wavelength the lower the frequency of
the sound and the shorter the wavelength the higher the frequency of the sound.
Given that:
Velocity (v) = frequency (f) x wavelength ()
The wavelength of a sound of 20 Hz is 330/20 = 16500 mm (16.5 m), and
The wavelength of a sound of 20 kHz is 330/20,000 = 16.5 mm (0.0165 m).
These are the extremes of wavelength for audible sounds.

Amplitude (Volume or Loudness)


The magnitude of the pressure change is measured by the amplitude (loudness). When
measuring sound energy, minute pressure changes above and below the atmospheric pressure
of air are measured. Pure noise energy is therefore a unit of pressure and is measured in
Pascals (Pa).

Pressure
Atmospheric pressure has a typical value of 100,000 Pa whereas typical sound pressures are
a small fraction of a Pascal (as low as 0.00002 Pa at some frequencies). The range of human
hearing is 20 Pa; this tiny pressure variation is known as the threshold of hearing, to 200 Pa,
known as the threshold of pain.

Sound Intensity
Sound is a form of energy, and we would expect the amplitude of noise to be associated in
some way with the amount of energy arriving at the ear within a given area. The sound intensity
or acoustic intensity of sound is a measure of its strength and is defined as the sound energy
(watts) flowing per second through one square metre. The range of intensities that can be
heard by the human ear is extremely wide, from 10-12 Wm-2 (the threshold of hearing) to 100
Wm-2 (the threshold of pain). If a linear scale is used to represent this accurately it would require
100,000,000,000,000 divisions which would be unworkable. Consequently a logarithmic scale
is used which measures the 10 fold increases in the intensity levels.

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Table 1: The Decibel Scale


Intensity Level

dB

Example

100,000,000,000,000

140

Jet Engine

Threshold of Pain

130

Riveting
Hammer

Threshold of Feeling
1,000,000,000,000
100,000,000,000
10,000,000,000
1,000,000,000

120
110
100
90

Aircraft Propeller
Rock Drill
Plate Fabrication Shop
Heavy Vehicle

Limit of Safe Range


100,000,000
10,000,000
1,000,000
100,000
10,000
1,000
100
10
1

80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

Very Heavy Traffic


Private Car
Conversation
Office
Soft Music Radio
Quiet House
Movie Studio
Rustle of a Leaf
Threshold of Hearing

(the number of times


louder than the
threshold of hearing)

10,000,000,000,000

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Logarithms
Logarithms are nothing more than a short-hand way to write down something that would
otherwise take too much time and space.
For example, the logarithm of 1000 to base 10 is 3, because 1000 is 10 to the power 3: 1000
= 101010 = 103.
Table 2: Logarithms
Number

Log Base 10

10

100

1000

10,000

100,000

To work out the log of 865, this will lie between Log 2 (100) and 3 (1,000), in fact it will be 2.93.
Because a logarithmic scale is used, decibels cannot be directly added, multiplied, averaged,
etc. Therefore two sources of noise each of 70dB do not add up to a combined total of 140dB
The Rule of 3
70dB + 70dB does not equal 140dB.
70dB + 70dB equals 73dB.
If every 1 Bel (10 dB) increase is 10 times more intense, then every 1 dB increase means that
the sound is 1.26 times louder. (Multiply 1.26 x 1.26 ten times over, it equals 10).
Now multiply 1.26 x 1.26 x 1.26 three times (i.e. 3 dB). It works out to 2.
(1.26 x 1.26 x 1.26 = 2 therefore an increase of 3 decibel means double the intensity).
Just remember that the decibel scale is a logarithmic scale and that a noise level increase of 3 dB
means double the noise intensity (but would not seem like double the loudness to the individual).
When adding decibels it is necessary to use a logarithmic scale or calculate the intensities to
add the raw figures and then recalculate the sound pressure level (SPL).
Example
50 dB + 50 dB = 10 log (1050/10 + 1050/10)
50 dB + 50 dB = 10 log 200,000
50 dB + 50 dB = 53 dB
Example
What is the average of: 50 dB, 60 dB, 70 dB and 80 dB?
Average = 10 log ((1050/10 + 1060/10 + 1070/10 + 1080/10)/4)
Average = 10 log (27,775,000)
Average = 74 dB

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Frequency Response
The hearing mechanism does not respond to all frequencies of sound in the same way, it
is more sensitive to certain frequencies and less sensitive at other frequencies. In order to
account for this variation in sensitivity to frequencies the measuring equipment is modified to
respond in a similar fashion. This is done by using weighting scales.
The term weighting scale or network refers to an electronic filter which is used on the sound
level meter to pre-select certain frequencies. There are a number of such scales in use in noise
Numberinstrumentation known
Log Base
10 A, B and C weighting scales. These filters can be used
measuring
as the
10
1
in specific measuring methods:
100
2
1000

The A weighting filter 3(dB(A)), mimics the response to the various frequencies of the
10,000
4
human ear and any readings
taken for the purpose of determining noise exposure should
100,000
6 consequently this scale is the most often used in occupational
be taken using this filter
noise measurements;
Table 2: Logarithms

The B filter (dB(B)) removes from the spectrum less low frequency noise than the A filter
and is sometimes used to measure sounds with a dominant low frequency content; and

The C filter (dB(C)) actually offers very little frequency filtration and only at the higher
frequencies. For most purposes the C filter can be considered as linear and is commonly
used to measure peak levels.
Figure 2: Weighting Filters Scale Graph

Figure 2: Weighting Filters Scale Graph

The term dB refers to an unweighted noise reading and is often written as dB(lin), although it is
not uncommon to drip the (lin). Where a filter has been used, then the information should be
shown as dB(A) or dB(B) or dB(C) as appropriate.

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Behaviour of Sound
Sound, in a similar way to light, can be reflected and in the same way, the angle of incidence i.e.
the approach angle is equal to the angle of reflection the angle at which the sound leaves the
reflecting surface. From this it can be seen that the propagation of sound in a room will depend
significantly on the structure, i.e. the absorbing and reflecting properties of the room.

Reverberation Time
Reverberation is the characteristic of sound to reflect off structures and subsequently decay by
60 dB. Sound produced in a room will not die away as soon as it is produced but will continue
to be heard as a result of reflections from walls, floors, ceilings and other structures within the
room. This is reverberant sound.
An individuals perception of reverberation will instil a sense of being and depth from the
cavernous or hollow cave to the dull, oppressive, sound in an almost anechoic room (i.e. no
sound reflections present) such as a padded cell.
Work areas with long reverberation times will appear noisier than those with short periods since
the sound continues to be heard in conjunction with direct sound being produced.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

The Hearing Mechanism and the


Effects of Sound
The human ear is made up of three distinct regions: outer, middle and inner. Each part has its
own unique role to play in the transmission of sound and the environment to the auditory nerves
leading3:
to The
the brain.
Figure
Human Ear
Figure 3: The Human Ear

The outer ear consists of the pinna and the ear canal. This part of the hearing system is not in
itself susceptible to damage from noise as it merely acts as a funnelling mechanism to guide
the sound waves towards the eardrum and the middle ear. The outer ear may however, become
obstructed, e.g. by wax or as a result of some other ear infection, causing an obstruction in the
canal,
thus
affecting the ability to hear sound. Chronic Effects
Acute
Effects
(result of short-term exposure)
(resulting from long-term exposure)
The
middle
ear
consists
of
the
tympanic
membrane
and a(permanent
series of small
bones (malleus, incus
Tinnitus (temporary)
Tinnitus
or spasmodic)
and stapes or hammer, anvil and stirrup) collectively known as the ossicles. Sound travelling
down
the earthreshold
canal of the
outer ear causes the tympanic
membrane
to vibrate.
ossicles are
Temporary
shift
Noise induced
hearing
lossThe(permanent
connected to the tympanic membrane, thereforethreshold
the vibrations
are
transmitted
via
the ossicles
shift)
into the inner ear.
Blast deafness (damage to the ossicles or
The
the bones
drum) of the middle ear will only transmit sound properly if the pressure is equal on both
sides of the tympanic membrane. This is achieved by the eustachian tube, which connects the
middle
ear Effects
with the throat and thereby the atmosphere. A blockage of this tube, e.g. due to
Annoying
infection, will result in a difference in pressure and thereby cause hearing impairment. In normal
operation however, the ossicles mechanically relay the vibrations of the tympanic membrane to
Table
3: window
Acute and
of High
Noise
Levels
the oval
andChronic
inner ear.Effects
The ossicles
are
arranged
in a chain in such a manner that they
form a lever system and thus amplify the sound.

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Similarly the difference in area between the tympanic membrane and the oval window
concentrates the sound energy. This constitutes an impedance matching system that increases,
or amplifies, the sound pressure to allow effective transmission from the low resistance medium
of air to the high resistance medium of fluid within the inner ear.

The inner ear transforms the transmitted waves into electrical signals, which can then be
processed by the brain. This part of the ear consists of the oval window, the cochlea and the
round window. The cochlea is a fluid filled, coiled canal, which contains auditory receptor hair
cells. The fluid within the cochlea transmits the waves received from the oval window along the
cochlea onto the auditory receptor hair cells, which generate the electrical stimuli perceived
as sound by the brain. The hair cells are arranged in rows throughout cochlea and respond
depending on frequency of the sound.
Probably one of the most striking aspects of the human auditory system is the presence of two
ears and yet only one acoustic environment.
In everyday life both ears are stimulated by similar, but rarely identical auditory stimuli (binaural
dichotic stimulation), mainly as in most circumstances one ear is closer to the sound than the
other. The difference in time of arrival of the sound is the primary means by which a listener
can localise the source of the sound. The term localisation refers to the subjective experience
of determining a spatial source for the sound. Hearing damage can therefore, affect spatial
awareness and the ability to recognise the direction of the sound source.

Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss, mainly conductive, sensory and cortical.

Conductive Hearing Loss


This is due to the defects in the parts of the ear which are responsible for conducting the sound
wave in air to the inner ear, for example calcification of the bones of the ear, damage to the
tympanic membrane or a blockage in the auditory canal. This type of hearing loss is generally
limited to 50 to 55 decibels due to conduction of the sound through the skull. Consequently
people affected with conductive hearing loss may still be able to hear loud sounds.

Blast Deafness
The sensitive system of sound amplification and transmission has a built in defence system
against loud sounds, which are likely to cause damage. Two muscles, the tensortympani attached
to the tympanic membrane, and the stapedius, attached to the stapes, control the efficiency with
which sound is transmitted through the middle ear. A potentially damaging loud sound causes
these muscles to tense, thereby preventing the tympanic membrane reaching the full amplitude
of the sound wave and reducing the ability of the bones to move. This response is known as aural
reflex and has a latent response time of around 30 milliseconds. Consequently it cannot protect
from instantaneous sounds such as a gun shot, which may cause damage to the ear.

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Sensory Hearing Loss


This is normally associated with a loss of sensitivity of the sensory or hair cells within the
cochlea. This type of hearing loss is different for all frequencies.
This type of hearing defect is not always permanent. A condition known as temporary threshold
shift is generally caused by exposure to loud noise. Following exposure to the noise source the
threshold of hearing is temporarily raised and is often accompanied by ringing in the ears or
tinnitus. The removal of the noise source and an adequate quiet rest period will usually restore
hearing sensitivity. The rest period required to restore sensitivity varies in accordance with a
number of factors, e.g. duration of exposure, intensity, frequency, etc.
Although the most susceptible frequencies to threshold shift are between 3 and 6 kHz, it should
be noted that repeated exposure to noise sources causing temporary threshold shift will often
result in the similar but permanent condition of permanent threshold shift. This permanent
threshold shift is usually associated with noise induced hearing loss and is characterised by a
reduction and sensitivity to noise of around 4 kHz (normal speech).
A condition known as presbycusis is associated with hearing loss due to age. The symptoms
are generally a reduction in sensitivity at high frequencies.
Another common effect of sensory hearing loss is loudness recruitment whereby the sensory
cells, which detect quiet sounds, are damaged. A person suffering from this condition may hear
loud sounds well enough.

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Cortical Deafness
This is a neurological condition and not associated with transmission for detection of sounds.
The aural part of the brain is defective and is unable to convert the electrical nerve impulses to
sounds.

Other Effects of Noise Exposure


As can be seen from the above descriptions, the determination of sound is a complex process.
In addition to this, sound that is normally heard is complex and made up of several sounds,
or of sounds occurring at the same time as other sounds, known as background noise.
Consequently the reception of sound may be masked if the background noise is sufficiently
loud in comparison to the noise of interest. Inability to hear instructions or warning signals and
the misunderstanding of verbal communication can all have serious consequences.
Very high levels of noise have been found to cause muscular tension, tightening of blood
vessels, raised heart rate and effects on the digestive system. Irritability, loss of sleep and
stress symptoms may even result from low levels of noise in some circumstances.
Table 3: Acute and Chronic Effects of High Noise Levels
Acute Effects
(result of short-term exposure)

Chronic Effects
(resulting from long-term exposure)

Tinnitus (temporary)

Tinnitus (permanent or spasmodic)

Temporary threshold shift

Noise induced hearing loss (permanent


threshold shift)

Blast deafness (damage to the ossicles or


the drum)
Annoying Effects
In conclusion the mammalian / human ear is a highly developed sensory organ that has
developed in conjunction with other sensory systems as well as the central nervous system.
The binaural capabilities give the ears an extra dimension to hearing sounds by being able
to localise and distinguish between various noise signals. In conjunction with its sensitivity,
i.e. ability to hear sounds of between 20 and 20,000 Hz, the hearing system is also extremely
fragile and prolonged exposure to loud sounds will cause irreparable damage.

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Audiometry
The sensitivity of the hearing mechanism or response to different frequencies can be measured.
This measurement of hearing acuity is known as audiometry, or audiometric testing.
The instrument used for carrying out audiometry is known as an audiometer. This instrument
is capable of producing pure tones at various frequencies at known sound pressure levels.
The person is placed in a sound proof room and is exposed to a range of sounds at varying
frequencies using canister type headphones. The headphones are tight fitting to prevent any
unwanted sound being heard by the person and interfering with the test. Similarly the person
should undergo
a period
of relative quiet prior to the test to ensure that there is no distortion of
Figure 4: Audiogram
of Normal
Hearing
Figure
4: Audiogram
of
Normal Hearing
the test
results as a consequence
of temporary threshold shift (TTS). The person is then asked
to indicate, for each ear, at each frequency which level he / she can detect. The results are then
plotted on a graph. With no hearing defect the results would be similar to Figure 4 below.
Figure 4: Audiogram of Normal Hearing

Figure 5 shows characteristic reduction in hearing sensitivity as a result of exposure to noise.


Where the subject has some hearing defect, the levels of sound need to be raised above the
normal threshold of hearing in order for the subject to hear them, this is indicated as a dip on
the graph.
Figure 5: Audiogram
Showing Noise
Induced
(NIHL)
Figure 5: Audiogram
Showing
NoiseHearing
InducedLoss
Hearing
Loss (NIHL)
Figure 5: Audiogram Showing Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

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The results of the test can be invalidated or affected by external interference such as noise,
temporary hearing conditions, uncalibrated equipment or the results may even be falsified by
an experienced subject.
Conversely the tests are relatively cheap to perform and provide a good reference point for
future analysis of hearing acuity.
Most individuals have, what can be described as, average hearing susceptibility, although there
are people who appear to have tough ears, who suffer less from the effects of noise exposure,
similarly there are those with tender or sensitive ears who suffer more than most. Where
noise exposure is likely pre-employment tests, followed by routine tests at frequent intervals,
should be completed to help protect individuals and identify pre existing conditions.

Advantages and Limitations


Advantages of audiometric testing are that:

A pre-employment benchmark is obtained. New employees may have existing hearing


loss from previous employment;

It is relatively inexpensive;

It can be used to defend a civil compensation claim;

The symptoms of hearing loss can be detected at an early stage; and

The effectiveness of noise control measures are verified if results indicate no adverse
health effects.

Limitations of audiometric testing are that:

It may detect irreversible damage;

It may actually assist a civil compensation claim;

The results depend upon the competence of the tester and the calibration of the equipment;

The subject can falsify the results; and

External noise interference may affect the results.

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Legal Duties
Requirements contained within The ILO Occupational Safety and Health Convention C155
1981 which applies to all branches of economic activity and all categories of work, requires
the prevention and control and protection of workers against occupational hazards arising from
noise and vibration, amongst others.
This Convention is supported by C148 Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and
Vibration) Convention 1977, R156 Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration)
Recommendation 1977 and the ILO Code of Practice: Ambient Factors in the Workplace 2001.
The ILO Code of Practice: Ambient Factors in the Workplace 2001 states that;
The level of noise and/or duration of exposure should not exceed the limits established by the
competent authority or other internationally recognised standards.

Occupational Exposure Limits


Annex 9 of ILOs Ambient Factors in the Workplace is intended as a general guide to exposure
limits for the use of employers and other parties concerned, and indicates where more detailed
information can be found.
Although some illustrative values are quoted the annexe does not list values due to the fact
that they change continually as more technical information becomes available, and it is the
responsibility of the competent authority to specify which exposure limits should be used and how.

Exposure Limit (EL)


An exposure limit (EL) is a level of exposure which is specified by a competent authority, or
some other authoritative organization such as a professional body, as an indicator of the level
to which workers can be exposed without serious injury. It is used as a general term and covers
the various expressions employed in national lists, such as maximum allowable concentration,
threshold limit value, permissible level, limit value, average limit value, permissible limit
,occupational exposure limit, industrial hygiene standards, etc.
The exact definition and intended application of ELs vary widely from one authority to another
and the underlying definitions and assumptions and the requirements of the appropriate
competent authority must be taken into account if they are used.
Detailed guidance on ELs and other aspects of assessment and control is provided by the ILO
Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety (Geneva, 1998). Some references concerning
ELs for particular ambient factors are given in the Annex to the ILO Code of Practice: Ambient
Factors in the Workplace

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Measuring Noise
In order to measure noise exposure the safety practitioner will need to develop competency in
taking noise readings and of course analysing the results.
A competent person for the purpose of taking noise readings will not need an advanced
knowledge of acoustics, nor will they need detailed knowledge and experience of selecting and
designing control measures to complete a noise assessment, but they will need to be able to
indicate where other further specialist assistance may be required.
This means that they will need an appreciation of further advanced topics. The level of expertise
needed will depend largely on the complexity of the situation where measurements are to be
taken. Where workers are regularly exposed to steady noise throughout the working day (e.g.
noisy production area), or to intermittent but regular periods of steady noise (e.g. the operator of
an automatic lathe), the task is straightforward and may only require the ability to handle simple
instruments and relate their readings to the requirements of the relevant statutory provisions.
Those who are to assess irregular exposures, or situations where workers intermittently use
a variety of different machines, will need a better understanding of the techniques involved in
establishing daily noise exposure levels.

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Assessment of Noise Exposure


The ILO Code of Practice Ambient Factors in the Workplace 2001 states that;
The assessment should, as appropriate, consider:
(a) the risk of hearing impairment;
(b) the degree of interference to speech communications essential for safety purposes;
(c) the risk of nervous fatigue, with due consideration to the mental and physical workload
and other non-auditory hazards or effects.
Any employer who carries out work which is liable to expose any of his employees to risk
from noise exposure at or above the lower exposure action value should undertake a suitable
and sufficient risk assessment to identify the measures that need to be taken to meet the
requirements of this Code of Practice. This should be recorded.
In addition, for the prediction of the amount of hearing loss expected to occur as a function of
noise exposure level and duration, age and sex, when no national provisions are available, then
the international consensus standard ISO 1999,Acoustics:Determination of occupational noise
exposure and estimate of noise-induced hearing impairment(1990), should apply.
The level of noise and/or duration of exposure should not exceed the limits established by the
competent authority or other internationally recognised standards.
For the prevention of adverse effects of noise on workers, employers should:

Identify the sources of noise and the tasks which give rise to exposure;

Seek the advice of the competent authority and/or the occupational health service about
exposure limits and other standards to be applied; and

Seek the advice of the supplier of processes and equipment about expected noise
emission;Any noise measurements should be carried out by someone who is competent,
i.e. someone who has the relevant training, skills, knowledge and experience to undertake
measurements in the particular working environment.

To get a rough estimate of whether a risk assessment is required the following simple tests can
be applied:

The noise is intrusive but normal conversation is possible - the probable noise level is 80
dB. A risk assessment will be required if the noise exposure is like this for more than 6
hours;

A person has to shout to talk to someone 2 m away - the probable noise level is 85 dB. A
risk assessment will be required if the noise exposure is like this for more than 2 hours;
and

A person has to shout to talk to someone 1 m away - the probable noise level is 90 dB. A
risk assessment will be required if the noise exposure is like this for more than 45 minutes.

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Noise Exposure
Continuous A-Weighted Noise Level (LAeq)
The equivalent continuous A-weighted noise level is the sound pressure level of a steady sound
that has the same energy content as the fluctuating sound over a given period of time. The
measurement is therefore an average of dB(A) over a given time period.
For practical purposes the LAeq is calculated using an integrating sound level meter (SLM).

Equivalent Continuous Noise Level (Leq)


This is the equivalent continuous un-weighted sound pressure level of a steady sound that has
the same energy content as the fluctuating sound over a given period of time measured in dB
over a given time period. Again, for practical purposes the Leq is calculated using an integrating
sound level meter (SLM).

Peak Sound Pressure Level dB(C)


For impulsive noise, peak sound pressures can cause instant hearing damage. Sources include
impact tools, drop forges, punch presses and firearms. For practical purposes the peak sound
pressure is measured in dB(C) using a sound level meter (SLM).

Personal Daily Exposure Level (LEP,d) and Personal


Weekly Exposure Level (LEP,w)
With the exception of certain peak limits that cause instant damage it is the total dose of noise
that is of concern. In most work situations the noise levels will fluctuate considerably throughout
the day. The total dose is determined by averaging the level of noise over an 8 hour period for
daily exposure and 40 hours for weekly exposure, to give a single level for that period of time,
known as the LEP,d and the LEP,w.
The daily values apply over an 8 hour time weighted period (LEP,d). Where the exposure of an
employee to noise varies markedly from day to day, an employer may use weekly personal
noise exposure (LEP,w), over a 40 hour time weighted average, in place of daily personal noise
exposure. A weekly average is only likely to be appropriate where daily noise exposure on one
or two working days in a week is at least 5 dB higher than the other days, or the working week
comprises three or fewer days of exposure.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Noise Measuring Instruments


Sound Level Meter
The sound level meter (SLM) used for measuring sound pressure levels consists of a
microphone, amplifier and meter. The microphone converts the pressure variations into
electrical signals which are then amplified and displayed on the meter either digitally or using
an analogue display. The SLM must have the capacity to take readings using the weighting
filters.
Peak sound pressure should be measured with a C-weighting applied. Modern meters may
have a variety of different time constants, e.g. fast (F), slow (S) and impulse (I).
The SLM must be calibrated before and after use using a field calibrator. The purpose of
calibration is to ensure that the instrument is operating within tolerance limits and therefore
that the accuracy of the readings taken can be verified. The microphone and therefore the
SLM are extremely fragile and the sensitivity is affected by numerous parameters including
air temperature and humidity. A number of acoustic calibrators are used but the most common
is a piston-phone, which fits over the microphone and produces a known sound pressure at
a known frequency, e.g. 250 Hz at 124 dB.
Noise external to the calibrator is unimportant since the calibrator fits snugly over the
microphone, a drawback here is that the calibrator can only be used with certain size
microphones over which it will fit. Some meters have an internal electronic calibration. The
internal calibration only checks the accuracy of the instrument electronics and does not
provide a check of the meters microphone. However, it can be a useful cross-check of the
accuracy of the meter and calibrator.
Further essential accessories required for noise readings are a tripod to secure the SLM
during the readings period, a windshield to protect the microphone from wind, abrasion and
dust and methods for recording the location, time conditions, etc. during the readings.
Sound level meters and calibrators are graded by class or type. The lower the type or class
number, the more accurate the instrument is:
Class 1 (laboratory and field), accurate to around +/- 1.1 dB; and
Class 2 (general field), accurate to around +/- 1.4 dB.
At least a Class 2 sound level meter and Class 2 calibrator should be used for a noise
assessment. Furthermore the most recent standards (IEC 61672 Part 1) for noise measuring
equipment should be adhered to.
All measuring equipment including field calibrators should be periodically tested by an
independent laboratory to ensure that the equipment continues to operate within acceptable
limits. Currently the frequency of testing is set out in IEC 61672 Part 3, and is a minimum
of every 2 years. Once tested the instrument should carry a valid calibration certificate, any
readings taken without such certification are questionable.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Figure 6: Sound Level Meters

Figure 6: Sound Level Meters

Dosemeter
Personal sound exposure meters or dosemeters are personal measuring equipment and
are worn by the subject during the period of assessment. Dosemeters have no type or class
number, but should meet the requirements of BS EN 61252 or other revlevant international
standard such as ISO.
Centre
63 Hz 125 Hz
250 Hz 500 Hz 1,000 Hz 2,000 Hz 4,000 Hz 8,000 Hz
Frequency
Where a person is highly mobile or working in places where access for the measurement
is difficult, a dosemeter is an alternative means of measuring a persons noise exposure.
Table
4: Octave
Bandthe
Analysis
Dosemeters
indicate
total noise dose received over the measurement period. Modern
dosemeters commonly indicate the LAeq over the measurement period. Some meters indicate
the dose in units of Pascal squared hours (Pa2h) or as a percentage of a given LEP,d (usually 85
or 90 dB). Meters are required to provide a means of converting the reading to Pa2h if this is not
directly indicated on the meter.

Octave Band Analysis


Unfortunately sound does not consist of single frequency tones but more usually contains a
range of frequencies and complex combinations of tones. It is therefore sometimes necessary
to determine the frequency content of the noise. Frequency analysis or octave band analysis is
used to identify the various frequency components of noise and can consequently be used to
determine appropriate control measures. Given that different frequencies have different physical
properties then control measures can be tailored to eliminate specific frequencies within the
noise, e.g. a low hum caused by a generator or a steady tone from an air conditioning fan.
Analysis is usually done in octaves where one octave represents a doubling of the frequency
and the frequency range is given by the mid-point as shown in Table 4.
Table 4: Octave Band Analysis
Centre
63 Hz
Frequency

125 Hz

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250 Hz 500 Hz 1,000 Hz 2,000 Hz

4,000 Hz 8,000 Hz

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Carrying Out a Noise Assessment


The noise level to which an individual employee is exposed will normally change throughout
the day because, for example different machines or materials might be used at different times.
Noise measurements taken should account for these changes to give a representative measure
of the noise exposure. Measurements should be taken at each position or during each task,
and be long enough to obtain an indication of the average level the person is exposed to.
Measurements may be required of the LAeq for the entire period but a shorter measurement
period is often sufficient provided there are no significant changes in the noise levels. The time
required depends on the nature of the work and the noise profile.
Following the assessment of the noise exposures, a record should be produced and include the
following information:

The workplaces, areas, jobs or people assessed;

Measurement locations and durations and any noise control measures being used at the
time;

The work patterns and calculations of daily exposure;

Daily personal noise exposures (LEP,d) where they are above the lower exposure action
level;

Peak noise exposure levels where they are above the peak action level;

The sources of noise;

Any further information necessary to help comply with the reduction of noise exposure;

The date of the assessment;

Who made the assessment;

Details of the instruments used, the sensitivity;

Calibration checks and the last periodic verification;

A tabular record of the noise exposure resulting from various tasks or activities;

Identification of the person, work area or operation;

A plan showing noise levels at various places in the premises and a record of who works
there and typical working times;

A record of the type of workplace and associated noise levels and exposures; and

Recommended actions for reducing noise exposure which alter the daily noise exposure
from the value obtained in the previous assessment.

Reassessment of a persons daily noise exposure will be required when there are any changes
which alter the daily noise exposure from the value obtained in the previous assessment.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

The detail of the reassessment will depend on the nature of the changes and the number of
people affected by them. A change in hours or work patterns may require a recalculation of
the noise exposure for the people affected, but no further measurements. The introduction of
new machinery or processes may require a full reassessment of an area. Additionally frequent
measurements should be undertaken to monitor the levels of noise in the workplace.

Using a SLM
To obtain a reliable measure of the noise to which a person is exposed to measurements should
be made with the microphone placed on the side of the head where the noise levels are higher.
The microphone should be positioned at least 15 cm away from the persons head so that
reflections do not cause errors.
When assessing a persons noise exposure, measurements should be made at every location
that they work in or pass through during the working day, and note the time spent at each
location. Operators may need to be present while the measurements are made, e.g. to control
machinery.
To avoid making large numbers of measurements, for example where the sound pressure level
is changing, or if the person is moving within a noisy area, it is advisable to assume the worst
case and measure at the noisiest location, or during the loudest periods. If the assessment
shows the daily personal noise exposure is above the lower exposure action level, then, if
necessary, the worst-case assumption may be reviewed. It is generally not necessary to record
exposures to sound pressure levels below 75 dB, since such exposures are unlikely to be
significant in relation to the daily noise exposure action levels.
To estimate the noise exposure of a person at work, the LAeq and the maximum C-weighted
peak sound pressure level or levels to which the person is exposed should be measured. In
practice it is common to break the working day into a number of discrete jobs or tasks, and to
make sample measurements to determine a representative LAeq for the job or task.

Dosimetry
Noise dosemeters are designed to operate for longer periods. They are ideal for measurements
over an entire shift, or for a period of several hours during a shift. For shorter periods of
measurement the time must be long enough to be typical of the rest of the working day, so that
the full daily exposure can be predicted. Very short measurements should be avoided, as these
may only give a very low dose reading which can be inaccurate.
For readings using a dosemeter to measure a persons noise exposure, the microphone
should be positioned on the shoulder of the subject. The microphone should be prevented from
touching the neck, rubbing on, or being covered by, clothing or protective equipment since this
may distort the readings. People wearing dosemeters should be instructed not to interfere with
the instrument or microphone during the course of the measurements. They should also be
instructed not to speak more than is necessary during the course of the measurement, since
a persons own voice should not be included in an assessment of their daily personal noise
exposure.
Dose readings should relate to actual true noise exposure, not false input from unrepresentative
noise sources when the meter is not supervised, for example artificial bangs, whistling, blowing
and tampering with the microphone.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Analysing the Sound


The measured LAeq is combined with the duration of exposure during a working day to ascertain
the daily personal noise exposure, LEP,d, using a formula as the one defined in the UKs Schedule
1 Part 1 paragraph 1 to The Control of Noise at Work Regulations.
Electronic spreadsheets are available on the HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk/noise) which allow
the LEP,d calculation to be performed.
Simple methods for determining daily and weekly personal noise exposure using readyreckoners based on the level of noise and duration of exposure are provided in the Health
and Safety Executives Guidance Note Controlling Noise at Work, L108. It provides a way of
working out noise exposure points for individual noise exposures that can be combined to give
the total exposure points for a day, hence the daily exposure.
The left section of Table 5 shows how noise level and duration of exposure are combined to
give noise exposure points. The right section is used to convert total exposure points to daily
personal exposure.
Table 5: Noise Exposure Ready-Reckoner (HSE)

Table 5: Noise Exposure Ready-Reckoner (HSE)

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LAeq dB(A)

Time

Notes

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Exposure Points

80

5 hours

In the left hand section of the Table 5

16 + 4 = 20

Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Worked Example 1, using a SLM


An employee has the following work pattern and noise exposures:
1.

5 hours at 80 dB(A);

2.

2 hours at 86 dB(A);

3.

45 minutes at 95 dB(A).

Table 6: Worked Example 1


LAeq dB(A)

Time

Notes

Exposure Points

80

5 hours

In the left hand section of the Table 5


there is no column for 5 hours, so add the
exposure points of 4 hours at 80 dB (16)
and 1 hour at 80 dB (4)

16 + 4 = 20

86

2 hours

In the left hand section of Table 5 read


directly from the table

32

95

45 minutes

In the left hand section of the Table 5


there is no column for 45 minutes, so add
the exposure points of 30 minutes at 95
dB (65) and 15 minutes at 95 dB (32)

65 + 32 = 97

Total Noise Exposure Points

149

Using the right hand section of Table 5, LEP,d is:

Between 86 and
87 dB(A)

Worked Example 2, using a dosemeter


An employee wears a dosemeter for 2.5 hours between breaks and the recorded dose is 1.3
Pa2h. The noise during the measurement period was typical for that work, but the employee is
normally exposed to this noise for 6 hours per day.
Step 1: Multiply Pa2h value by 100 to obtain noise exposure points for that dose:1.3 x 100 =
130 points.
Step 2:

To obtain noise exposure points for the normal duration of exposure, multiply by
exposure duration/measurement duration (6/2.5):
130 x 6/2.5 = 312 points.

Result: This task contributes 312 exposure points to daily personal noise exposure.

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Noise Control
Elimination or Control of Exposure to Noise at
the Workplace
The ILO Code of Practice: Ambient Factors in the Workplace 2001 states that the employer
should ensure that risk from the exposure of employees to noise is either eliminated at source
or reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.
If there is a likelihood of exposure to noise at or above an upper exposure action value, the
employer should reduce noise exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable, other than
by providing hearing protection, e.g. by implementing organisational and technical measures.
In taking preventive and protective measures, the employer should address the hazardous
factor or risk in the following order of priority:

Eliminate the hazardous factor or risk;

Control the hazardous factor or risk at source;

Minimize the hazardous factor or risk by means that include the design of safe worksystems;

In so far as the hazardous factor or risk remains, provide for the use of personal protective
equipment, including clothing, as appropriate, at no cost to the workers, and implement
measures to ensure its use; having regard to what is reasonable, practicable and feasible,
and to good practice and the exercise of due diligence.

Other working methods which reduce exposure to noise;

Choice of appropriate work equipment emitting the least possible noise, taking account of
the work to be done;

The design and layout of workplaces, work stations and rest facilities;

Suitable and sufficient information and training for employees, such that work equipment
may be used correctly, in order to minimise their exposure to noise;

Reduction of noise by technical means;

Appropriate maintenance programmes for work equipment, the workplace and workplace
systems;

Limitation of the duration and intensity of exposure to noise; and

Appropriate work schedules with adequate rest periods.

The employer should ensure that employees are not exposed to noise above an exposure limit
value, or if an exposure limit value is exceeded:

Reduce exposure to noise to below the exposure limit value;

Identify the reason for that exposure limit value being exceeded; and

Modify the organisational and technical measures taken to prevent it being exceeded again.

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Action Plan
An action plan may result from carrying out a noise assessment. This may include a list of what
is done to tackle immediate risks, e.g. providing appropriately selected hearing protection as a
temporary measure where high noise exposure levels are measured, or taking action to reduce
the noise exposure. The action plan should also consider:

The general duty to reduce risks, including:

investigating the applicability of basic noise-control measures and relevant industry


standards in noise control;

implementing a positive hire and purchase policy; and

maintenance systems necessary to ensure minimum noise emissions from plant, etc.;

A programme of noise-reduction measures, where exposure to noise exceeds the upper


exposure action values, including prioritisation options for controlling noise exposure;

Provision of suitable hearing protection, and setting up hearing protection zones;

Arrangements for providing information, instruction and training for employees, including
training on noise hazards and control measures;

Arrangements for providing health surveillance;

Realistic time-scales for the work to be carried out;

Assignment of tasks to named people or post holders within the company to be responsible
for the various tasks; and

Assignment of a named person or post holder to be responsible, overall, for making sure
that the plan is competently carried out.

There are three broad classifications of noise sources:

Vibrating surfaces: Noise emitted from, e.g. machine panels;

Aerodynamic noise: Noise produced by direct disturbance of the air itself, e.g. by an air
release associated with a fan, jet or pump; and

Impact noise: Noise generated by the impact itself and the subsequent ringing of the
components.

Like other forms of pollution, noise can be controlled by attention to the following three factors:

The Source: Relocation, redesign, maintenance;

The Path:

The Person: Acoustic havens and ear protection.

Providing barriers to the transmission of noise through isolation and


enclosures; and

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

The Source
Change of Process / Machine
In many instances it may well be appropriate to remove the noise producing process or machine
in its entirety and replace it with a quieter one. Examples include:

Improve the quality of manufacturing to avoid later rework with potentially noisy processes, e.g.
more accurate cutting of steel plate may eliminate noisy reworking with grinders or air chisels;

Use hydraulic pressing of bearings into a casting instead of being driven in by hammering;

Replace manual lathes on repetitive production with computer controlled automatic


machines, which often have guards that offer some noise reduction and mean the operator
needs to spend less time close to the source of the noise; and

Replace noisy compressed air tools with hydraulic alternatives.

Damping
Vibrating surfaces should be minimised by reducing the size of panels or fitting material to the
panels which reduces the flexibility and consequently the ability of the panel to move (damping).
Damping is the process of removing the energy from a system and converting it to heat. By
moving in conjunction with vibrating panels the internal frictional forces reduce the amount of
energy which can be used to compress the air around the panel and create noise.
Damping material tends to be visco-elastic in nature (rubbery) and can be applied using
adhesives or even sprayed onto a panel and allowed to set, e.g. mastic treatment.
For specific work pieces then specific solutions can be used, e.g. machining of hollow metal
castings or riveting of metal drums can create a great deal of ringing sound energy. The simple
approach of clamping and damping can produce considerable noise reduction.

Enclosure
Noisy machines can be enclosed fully, or a partial enclosure or an acoustic cover can be placed
around a noisy part of a machine. Enclosing machinery is likely to increase the temperature of
the air inside the enclosure, therefore adequate ventilation and cooling should be provided. An
efficient noise enclosure may consist of:

A good quality dense insulating barrier to stop the noise from escaping, e.g. steel brick, etc.;

Sound-absorbing material on the inside to reduce the reflections and therefore reduce the
build-up of noise in the enclosure;

Double-glazed viewing windows;

Good seals around openings, as small leaks can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of
the enclosure;

Self-closing devices on any doors; and

Absorbent-lined cooling ducts; and absorbent-lined inlets and outlets for materials and services.

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Isolation
Isolation involves separating the machine from its surroundings. Flexible isolators made of
rubber or springs can be used to reduce the spread of structure-borne sound through a machine
frame, e.g.:

Isolate the bearings from a gearbox case to reduce the transmission of gear noise; and

Mount machines on anti-vibration mounts to reduce the transmitted vibration into the
structure of the workplace.
Figure 7 : A Compressor Unit with Isolation under the Machine and on the Outlet
Pipework (HSE)
Figure 7: A Compressor Unit with Isolation under the Machine and on the Outlet Pipework (HSE)

There are a number of materials which are suitable for use in isolating equipment from the
structure of the workplace, e.g. cork, felt, foamed plastic for relatively high vibrational frequencies
and metal springs for the lower end frequencies. Clearly the operating environment needs to be
considered when choosing an appropriate material since, for example rubber is attacked by oil
and solvents and is only appropriate at certain temperatures.
Figure 8: A Porous Silencer for Use on Compressed Air Exhausts (HSE)

Avoiding Impacts

Noise generated by impacts, including components falling into chutes, bins and hoppers, and
impacts generated by tooling can be considerable. Noise reduction can be achieved by using
lower transfer speeds and / or heights of falling objects, avoidance of impacts, or making
arrangements to cushion falling materials, e.g.:

Fitting buffers on stops and rubber or plastic surface coatings on chutes, to avoid metalto-metal impacts; and

Using conveyor systems that prevent the components being transported from impacting
against each other, e.g. by use of screw conveyors.

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Silencing
Silencing air emissions by reducing the release of turbulent air into the workplace or by using
silencing methods such as baffles on exhaust outlets can reduce the presence of aerodynamic
generated noise.
Figure 8: A Porous Silencer for Use on Compressed Air Exhausts (HSE)
Figure 8: A Porous Silencer for Use on Compressed Air Exhausts (HSE)

Workplace Design
The way work processes are planned, organised and laid out can have an effect on the noise
exposure of individual employees. When considering a new workplace or modifying an existing
one, noise emissions and noise exposures should be considered.
The noise source may be re-sited to a less noise sensitive position, i.e. where there are no
employees or environmentally sensitive circumstances.

Maintenance
Machine maintenance can be critical in reducing noise. Machines deteriorate with age and use,
and if not maintained are likely to produce more noise due to factors such as worn parts, poor
lubrication and loose panels vibrating. Maintenance can, if carried out periodically, limit the
increased noise emission due to wear.
Regular inspections should be carried out to check that the noise-control features have not
deteriorated or been removed.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

The Path
The noise travels from the point of origin to the receiver in a number of different ways, using
different transmission paths:
Figure 9: Noise Paths
1

Reflected airborne transmission (reverberation);

Direct airborne transmission; and

3 Structure borne transmission.


Figure 9: Noise Paths
Figure 9: Noise Paths

Figure 10: Noise Control


Figure 10: Noise Control

Figure 10: Noise Control

In the previous Figure, the noise path is interrupted using absorbing ceiling mounted acoustic
tiles to reduce reflections (reverberant sound), an acoustic absorbing barrier to control the direct
airborne sound and resilient mounts for the noisy machine to reduce structure borne sound.

dB(A) Duration of Exposure


85
8 Hours
88
4 Hours
91
2 Hours
94
1 Hour
97
30 Minutes
100
15
Minutes
dB(A)
Duration
of Exposure
103
7.5 Minutes
85
8 Hours
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88
4 Hours
91
2 Hours
94
1 Hour

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Absorption
The effectiveness of a material at absorbing sound energy can be measured and is described
as the absorption coefficient. This numerical rating of the efficiency of the material is commonly
defined as:
the fraction of non-reflected sound energy to the incident sound energy (Smith, Peters
and Owen, 1996).
The absorption coefficient for material is determined in a laboratory under specific conditions,
e.g. the absorption coefficient of brickwork at 125 Hz is 0.02 and for carpet on a joist or board
and batten floor is 0.2, i.e. a carpeted floor is more absorbent than brickwork.
Sound absorbing material can be used to control reflections (reverberant sound) within
workrooms. Absorbing material fitted at a distance from the noise source (e.g. ceiling treatment)
will have little effect on the sound pressure level close to the source, but does reduce sound
pressure levels further away. Treatment is more effective when the reflecting surface is close to
the noise source, e.g. if a machine stands against a wall, applying sound-absorbing material to
the wall area behind the machine can significantly reduce the reflected sound.
Absorbing material can also be useful for treating reflecting surfaces close to a person, e.g. when
a worker sits against a reflecting wall. Even where sound absorbing material will not produce a
significant reduction in sound pressure level it can sometimes provide a psychological benefit
by reducing the high frequencies more than the low ones, and by suppressing reverberant
sound, which is more unpleasant than sound radiated directly from machines.
Absorption may also be achieved using porous absorbers, panel absorbers or walls and
screens. The materials used in construction and the size of the absorber or panel will define
its properties in terms of attenuating the noise. Each technique can be configured to attenuate
specific frequencies of sound which may have been determined through octave band analysis
or generally reduce the noise energy content.

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The Person
Job Design
Noisy devices should only be used when they are actually needed. For example, limiting the use
of a particularly noisy machine during the course of the working day or ensuring that personnel
are not constantly exposed to high noise levels during their work periods.

Job Rotation and Reducing Exposure Time


Where some employees do noisy jobs all day, and others do quieter ones, job rotation should
be considered. The introduction of job rotation may require the training of employees to carry
out alternative work. Table 4 illustrates the principle of equal energy, which demonstrates that
a trade-off between noise level and time of exposure can be made. The table shows the noise
dosages that are equivalent to the upper exposure action level of 85 dB(A) for eight hours.
Table 7: Noise Dosage
dB(A)

Duration of Exposure

85

8 Hours

88

4 Hours

91

2 Hours

94

1 Hour

97

30 Minutes

100

15 Minutes

103

7.5 Minutes

106

3.75 Minutes

Exposure time can be reduced by scheduling machine operation times. For example, if a noisy
operation is performed only one day per week and the operator receives the maximum noise
dose during that one day, it might be possible to carry out the noisy operation over two days, i.e.
over four hours on two days a week. The operator may then not receive the full dose.

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Distance
Increasing the distance between a person and the noise source can reduce noise exposure
considerably. Some examples of this are:

Direct the discharge from exhausts well away from workers, e.g. by fitting a flexible hose to
discharge exhaust several metres away from the operator. Similarly, on a mobile machine
powered by an internal combustion engine the exhaust can be kept well away from the
driving position;

Use remote control or automated equipment to avoid the need for workers to spend long
periods near to machines; and

Separate noisy processes to restrict the number of people exposed to high levels of
noise, e.g. test engines in test cells which need to be entered only occasionally make
arrangements for quiet inspection tasks to be carried out away from noisy manufacturing
areas, and locate unattended air compressors and refrigeration plant in separate rooms.

Refuges
These are noise-reduced enclosures for the isolation of people. Noise refuges can be a practical
solution in situations where noise control is very difficult, or where only occasional attendance
in noisy areas is necessary. The design of refuges will be similar to that of acoustic enclosures,
although since the purpose is to keep noise out rather than in, lining the inner surfaces with
acoustic absorbent material will not be necessary. The refuge should be:

Fitted with effective door and window seals;

Fitted with self-closing doors;

Of dense construction materials, with sufficient acoustically double-glazed windows; and

Isolated from the floor to reduce structure vibrations.

If machine controls are brought into the refuge, and thought is given to allowing remote monitoring
or viewing of machinery and processes, it should be possible to minimise the amount of time
that workers have to spend outside the refuge, thus maximising the benefit of having the refuge.
For example, a refuge that is only used for half of an 8 hour shift will achieve no more than 3
dB reduction in noise exposure.
Refuges must be acceptable to employees. This means they must be of a reasonable size, well
lit and ventilated and have good ergonomic seating.

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Hearing Protection
An employer who carries out work which is likely to expose employees to noise at or above a
lower exposure action value should make personal hearing protectors available upon request.
If an employer is unable to reduce the levels of noise to which an employee is likely to be
exposed to below an upper exposure action value, personal hearing protectors should be
provided.
In any area where there is a likelihood of exposure at or above the upper action value then
access to the area should be restricted and are should be designated a Hearing Protection Zone
(HPZ); and access to HPZs should not be allowed unless the appropriate hearing protection
is being worn.
Personal hearing protectors made available or provided should be selected by the employer
after consultation with the employees concerned or their representatives, to reduce the risk of
hearing damage.
Personal Protective Equipment - as always, should be the last choice because:

It is not effective if not worn correctly or is not maintained;

It needs constant management attention to ensure its use; and

It may introduce secondary risks (failure to hear alarms, instructions, vehicles).

Where there is no practicable alternative, PPE should be:

Properly selected - technically suitable, comfortable, compatible with other PPE such as
hard hats, spectacles etc;

Properly maintained - kept in clean and efficient order; and

Properly used - training and instruction and supervision will be necessary.

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Types of Hearing Protectors


Circumaural canister (earmuff) type ear defenders will generally provide up to about 20 dB
attenuation, or noise reduction for the wearer, whilst the foam inserts will generally provide
between 5 and 10 dB attenuation.
Each type has their own particular advantages and disadvantages and must be properly
prescribed, used and maintained throughout the noise exposure period.
Care is needed when recommending re-usable earplugs for two reasons:

Hygiene. There may be problems associated with keeping the plugs clean enough for reuse, especially when removed and replaced frequently; and

Comfort. They may be uncomfortable to wear, as the ear canal has to deform to their
shape to be fully effective. In order to achieve the acclaimed attenuation they must make
good contact with the skin of the ear canal and must therefore be of the correct size to fit.

Disposable plastic foam earplugs are often more comfortable to wear as the foam expands to
fill the cavity of the ear canal. Users must be trained to insert the plugs in the correct manner
to obtain the desired fit. Re-use of disposable plugs should be discouraged on the grounds of
hygiene and the increased risk of infection. On no account should disposable plugs be shared
between users.

Ear Plugs
Glass down and foam plugs are user-moulded before insertion and expand to fit the ear canal.
It is also possible to obtain custom-made earplugs, which are individually moulded.
The advantages of earplugs include the following:

They can be worn without interference from glasses / safety spectacles, helmets, earrings
or long hair;

They are normally comfortable to wear in hot environments;

They do not restrict movement when working in confined spaces;

On a unit cost basis, ear plugs cost less than ear muffs.

The disadvantages of earplugs include the following:

The amount of protection they provide can be less and more variable than an ear muff
provides;

Wearing of ear plugs is difficult to monitor because they are not easily visible;

Contaminated ear plugs can cause infections in the ear canal;

Ear plugs can be inserted incorrectly in the ear canal; and

Ear plugs should be worn only in healthy ear canals.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Ear Defenders
Externally worn earmuffs or defenders, present the user with different problems. The
effectiveness of the defenders is very much dependent on the seal achieved around the ears,
which in turn depends upon the cups being pressed against the head. The sprung headband
achieves the seal to the head, which can be virtually destroyed by loosening the headband by
bending it, wearing certain types of spectacles or even long hairstyles, which may interfere
with the seal. The relationship between comfort and performance is often therefore a trade-off,
taking into account the environmental conditions within the workplace.

Information, Instruction and Training


Where employees are exposed to noise which is likely to be at or above exposure levels
employers shall provide those employees and their representatives with suitable and sufficient
information, instruction and training on:

The nature of risks from exposure to noise;

The organisational and technical measures taken in reduce noise levels;

The exposure limit values and upper and lower exposure action values;

The findings of the risk assessment, including any measurements taken, with an
explanation;

The availability and provision of personal hearing protection and their correct use;

Why and how to detect and report signs of hearing damage;

The entitlement to health surveillance;

Safe working practices to minimise exposure to noise; and

The collective results of any health surveillance undertaken.

Maintenance and Use of Equipment


Where the employer provides noise control equipment then they should ensure that it is used
properly and maintained in an efficient working state for the purposes of noise control, e.g. a
noise enclosure which has a closable cover should be kept closed and maintained accordingly.
Similarly employees are required to use equipment which is supplied appropriately and report
any defects that they notice to the employer.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Health Surveillance
Health surveillance is a programme of systematic health checks to identify early signs and
symptoms of work-related ill-health and to allow action to be taken to prevent its progression. It
is also useful in monitoring the effectiveness of control measures. Suitable health surveillance
usually means regular hearing checks (audiometric testing).
The ILO defines workers health surveillance as a generic term which covers procedures and
investigations to assess workers health in order to detect, identify and quantify any abnormality
and to protect and promote the health of the individual, collective health at the workplace, and
the health of the exposed working population. Health assessment procedures may include,
but are not limited to, medical examinations, biological monitoring, radiological examinations,
questionnaires or a review of health records.
Appropriate health surveillance should be conducted for all workers whose noise exposures
reach a certain level prescribed by national laws and regulations or by national or internationally
recognized standards above which health surveillance should be carried out.
Workers health surveillance may include:

a pre-employment or pre-assignment medical examination to:


(i) determine any contraindication to exposure to noise;
(ii) detect any sensitivity to noise;
(iii) establish a baseline record useful for later medical surveillance;

periodical medical examinations at intervals prescribed as a function of the magnitude of


the exposure hazards to:
(i) detect the first symptoms of occupational disease;
(ii) detect the appearance of any unusual sensitivity to noise and signs of stress due to
noisy working conditions;

medical examinations prior to resumption of work after a period of extended sickness or in


case of conditions as may be specified in national legislation or internationally recognized
standards;

medical examinations performed on cessation of employment to provide a general picture


of the eventual effects of exposure to noise;

supplementary and special medical examinations when an abnormality is found and it


requires further investigation

If the risk assessment indicates that there is a risk to the health of his employees who are, or
are liable to be, exposed to noise, the employer shall ensure that such employees are placed
under suitable health surveillance, which shall include testing of their hearing.
There is strong evidence to show that regular exposure above the upper exposure action values
can pose a risk to health. Employers should therefore provide health surveillance to workers
regularly exposed above the upper exposure action values.
Where exposure is between the lower and upper exposure action values, or where employees are
only occasionally exposed above the upper exposure action values, employers should provide
health surveillance if they find out that an individual may be particularly sensitive to noise. This
may be from past medical history, audiometric test results from previous jobs, other independent
assessments or a history of exposure to noise levels exceeding the upper exposure action values.
A few individuals may also indicate a family history of becoming deaf early on in life.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Records of Health Surveillance


Up-to-date health record for each individual should be kept as long as they are under health
surveillance. These records should include:

Identification details of the employee;

The employees history of exposure to noise; and

The outcome of previous health surveillance in terms of fitness for work, and any restrictions
required.

The health record should be retained for at least as long as the employee remains in your
employment. You may wish to retain it for longer as enquiries regarding the state of an
individuals hearing may arise many years after they have left your employment or exposure to
noise has ceased.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Vibration
ILO C148 Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration) defines the term vibration
as any vibration which is transmitted to the human body through solid structures and is harmful
to health or otherwise dangerous.
Vibration is the term given to movement of a body back and forth around a fixed point. The
distance travelled away from the central or fixed point is known as the displacement. The average
displacement for a vibrating object is usually zero since it moves in equal and opposite cycles.

Types of Vibration
In the area of occupational health, persons may be subject to vibration exposure either in terms
of hand transmitted vibration or whole body vibration.

Hand Arm Vibration. Hand transmitted vibration is usually associated with the use of
hand held equipment where the vibration energy is transferred to the subject as a result of
them holding the equipment.

Whole Body Vibration (WBV. This is more often associated with persons whose body is
supported by a vibrating surface, e.g. sitting in a vibrating seat such as a moving vehicle.

Vibration Physics
Workplace vibration may be described in terms of displacement amplitude, velocity or
acceleration, where displacement is measured in either, millimetres (mm) or microns (m),
velocity is measured in metres per second (m/s) or millimetres per second (mm/s) and
acceleration is measured in metres per second per second (m/s2).
Amplitude - the measure of the displacement experienced by the vibrating object (mm or m).
Velocity - defined as the rate at which displacement changes with time (m/s).
Acceleration - the rate of velocity change (m/s2).
Since the vibrating object moves back and forth around a fixed point, its rate of movement is
not uniform, but changing constantly as it accelerates to and from each extreme position to the
mean position and then decelerates to the opposite extreme. This constant acceleration and
deceleration is a useful measure of the magnitude of vibration.
The displacement, velocity and acceleration can be demonstrated as a sine wave with the
velocity out of step or phase with displacement and acceleration by and acceleration out of
step with displacement by . See Figure 11.
Frequency of vibration, as with noise, is measured in Hertz and is the number of complete
oscillations occurring each second. Frequencies of below around 0.5 Hz can be the cause of
motion sickness. For WBV frequencies of between 0.5 100 Hz are significant whereas up to
around 1,000 Hz may have consequences for hand arm vibration exposure.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

106

3.75 Minutes

Table 7: Noise Dosage


Figure 11: Graph Representing Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration
Figure 11: Graph Representing Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration

The magnitude of the vibration is expressed in terms of the average acceleration experienced
by the vibrating object through its motion cycle, this is usually the root mean square (rms) value,
i.e. m/s2 rms.
Figure 12: Numerical Scoring System for VWF
The rms value is calculated by dividing the peak value by 2 and is the statistical mean of the
magnitude of varying quantities. It is especially useful when the readings go from +ve to ve.

Effects and Risk Factors


Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)
Hand Arm Vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as Hand Arm Vibration
Syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other possible soft tissue damage may lead to pain and stiffness in the hands and joints of the
wrists, elbows and shoulders. These forms of damage and the factors contributing to them are less
well understood than the vascular and neurological effects and individual susceptibility is variable.

Vibration White Finger (VWF)


Exposure to vibrating hand held machinery can give rise to vascular disorders commonly
Stage
Description
known asGrade
vibration-induced
white finger (VWF) which causes impaired blood circulation and
0
attacks.
blanching
(whitening) of No
affected
finger segments and parts of the hand. Neurological and
1
Mild
Occasional
attacks
affecting
only
affecting and
the tips
of one
muscular
damage may also
occur which
may
lead to
numbness
tingling
in or
themore
fingers
and hands, reduced grip fingers.
strength and dexterity, and reduced sensitivity both of touch and to
2
Moderate
temperature.
Occasional attacks affecting distal and middle (rarely also proximal)
of one
or more
fingers.
The acute symptoms of phalanges
vibration injury
may
give rise
to the worker experiencing tingling or
3 and Severe
pins
needles in the Frequent
hands and
extremities.
These
symptomsof would
be most noticeable
attacks affecting all phalanges
most fingers.
to 4
the employee
following
a
period
of
exposure
to
vibration.
During
cold
weather
the sufferer
Very Severe
in stage
3, withbegins
trophictoskin
changes
to when
the fingertips.
may experience an attackAs
where
the finger
change
colour
exposed to the cold,
e.g. Cyanosis which turns the skin a blue/purple colour due to lack of oxygen in the blood. As
the condition
worsens blanching
the whole finger down to the knuckle may occur. These
Table
8: The Stockholm
WorkshopofScale
colour changes to the finger are brought about by the difficulties in circulation following vascular
damage to the extremities and are often accompanied by an uncomfortable throbbing.

In more severe cases the attacks may occur during exposure to cold conditions and they last for
periods of up to an hour causing the sufferer extreme pain resulting in loss of manual dexterity,
clumsiness and reduced strength in the hands. In extreme cases however rarely, circulation
to the extremities maybe permanently impaired leading to necrosis or gangrene in the fingers.

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Table 7: Noise Dosage


Figure 11: Graph Representing Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration

Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

A circulatory disorder known as Raynauds syndrome can lead to a predisposition to VWF.


In assessing the extent of VWF a scoring mechanism which is based on the extent of blanching
of the segments of the digit is used and is a scoring system known as the Griffin Method.
Using this method each digit segment is given a value between 1 and 5 and is marked in the
score by counting from the thumb across the hand. In the example in Figure 13 the damage is
scored as 01200right 01233left.
Figure 12: Numerical Scoring System for VWF
Figure 12: Numerical Scoring System for VWF

A further scoring mechanism is used to assess or


record the extent of the condition and is known as
the Stockholm Workshop Scale, see Table 8.
Any employee diagnosed as suffering from
HAVS should receive advice from a Doctor or
Occupational
Practitioner about
Stage
GradeHealth Medical
Description
their medical condition and the likelihood of
0
No attacks.
disease
progression with
continued exposure.
1
Mild
Occasional
attacks
affecting
only affecting the tips of one or more
The advice will vary according
to the
severity
of
fingers.
the disease. HAVS can be classified according to
2
Moderate
Occasional
attacks
affecting distal and middle (rarely also proximal)
severity
in
stages using the
Stockholm
Workshop.
phalanges of one or more fingers.
Continuing exposure may be acceptable in early
3
Severe
cases. Diagnosis of newFrequent
cases ofattacks
HAVS affecting
should all phalanges of most fingers.
result
appropriate
the skin changes to the fingertips.
4 in Very
Severe steps
As inbeing
stagetaken
3, withby
trophic
employer to review the risk assessment and
ensure that exposures are reduced. If exposure
Table
8: The Stockholm
Workshop
Scale
is adequately
controlled,
it may be
possible to
prevent employees with HAVS stage 1 from
progressing to HAVS stage 2 before they reach
retirement age. Health surveillance monitoring
for the individual may need to take place more
frequently, depending on medical advice, if there
is concern about progression of the disease.

The scales should be used to classify vascular


and sensorineural symptoms and assist in the
assessment in conjunction with other clinical
details provided via, e.g. questionnaire. A
particular disadvantage of the scales is a lack of
precise definition of the terms used, e.g. frequent.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Vascular component
Stage

Grade

Description
No attacks

1V

Mild

Occasional attacks affecting only the tips of one or more fingers

2V

Moderate

Occasional attacks affecting distal and middle (rarely also proximal)


phalanges of one or more fingers

3V

Severe

Frequent attacks affecting all phalanges of most fingers

4V

Very severe

As in stage 3, with trophic changes in the fingertips

Sensorineural component
Stage

Description

0SN

Vibration-exposed but no symptoms

1SN

Intermittent numbness with or without tingling

2SN

Intermittent or persistent numbness, reduced sensory perception

3SN

Intermittent or persistent numbness, reduced tactile discrimination


and/or manipulative dexterity

The staging is made separately for each hand. The grade of disorder is indicated by the stage
and number of affected fingers on both hands, e.g. stage/hand/number of digits.
Table 8: The Stockholm Workshop Scale
Stage

Grade

Description
No attacks.

Mild

Occasional attacks affecting only affecting the tips of one or more


fingers.

Moderate

Occasional attacks affecting distal and middle (rarely also proximal) phalanges
of one or more fingers.

Severe

Frequent attacks affecting all phalanges of most fingers.

Very Severe

As in stage 3, with trophic skin changes to the fingertips.

HAVS Risk Factors


Vibration with a frequency between about 2 to 1,500 Hz is potentially damaging and more serious
at between 5 and 20 Hz. However, the risks depend significantly on the vibration magnitude.
The strength of the grip and other forces used to hold and guide vibrating tools or work
pieces may affect the severity of the exposure since the tighter the grip the more likelihood of
transferring vibrational energy from the workpiece to the hand.
The length of exposure and the frequency of exposure to the vibrating workpiece and
associated rest periods may give rise to cumulative effects. Similarly the nature of the contact
between the work equipment and the hand is significant since there may be more transfer
of vibrational energy to the hand. Other factors which might affect blood circulation such as
ambient temperature and smoking will affect individuals susceptibility to vibrational energy as
may other individual characteristics including age, health and general wellbeing.
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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Whole-Body Vibration (WBV)


Vibration transmitted through the seat or feet is known as whole-body vibration.
Whole-body vibration has widespread effects and is not particularly clear as the body does not
have one receptor for this energy as for example the ear is for noise, but effects are manifested
far and wide in the body and may be mistaken for a number of other common ailments.
The most pronounced and common effect is lower back pain which is caused by various
mechanisms of vibration on the musculo-skeletal system of the body, namely the degeneration
of the intervertebral discs, which leads to an impairment of the mechanics of the vertebral column
allowing tissues and nerves to be strained and pinched leading to various back problems.
The nutrition of the discs is also affected by long periods of sitting aggravated by vibration
exposure, which causes tissue nutrients needed for growth and repair of the discs to flow out
of the discs by diffusion instead of inwards where they are required and this leads to increased
wear and reduced repair of the discs. The vertebral bodies are also damaged by the vibration
energy that leads to an accumulation of micro fractures at the end plates of the vertebral bodies
and associated pain. Muscle fatigue also occurs as the muscles try to react to the vibrational
energy to maintain balance and protect and support the spinal column, but these are often too
slow as the muscular and nervous system cannot react fast enough to the vibrational shocks
and loads being applied to the body.
Other health effects that have been associated with whole-body vibration and especially the
driving environment are piles, high blood pressure, kidney disorders and impotence.
Drivers of industrial vehicles such as tractors, fork-lift trucks and lorries may be exposed to WBV.
Excessive exposure to whole-body vibration, particularly to shocks and jolts in combination with
other factors as detailed below may lead to back pain:

Incorrect adjustment by the driver of the seat position and hand and foot controls, so that
it is necessary to continually twist, bend, lean and stretch to operate the machine;

Sitting for long periods without being able to change position;

Poor driver posture;

Repeated manual handling and lifting of loads by the driver;

Repeatedly climbing into or jumping down from a high cab or one which is difficult to get
in and out of.

WBV Risk Factors


WBV may be experienced by many people in everyday working life, for example driving a
bus, lorry, construction site vehicles, etc. It has been shown that people exposed to certain
combinations of vibration amplitude and frequency can worsen existing back pain. The vibration
is transmitted to people through their buttocks when seated or through the feet when standing
on a vibrating surface.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Vibration Assessment and Measurement


Vibration measurement and control requirements are contained within The ILO Occupational
Safety and Health Convention, 1981 which applies to all branches of economic activity and all
categories of work and requires the prevention and control and protection of workers against
occupational hazards arising from noise and vibration.
This Convention is supported by the Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration)
Convention 1977, together with the ILO Code of Practice: Protection of Workers against Noise
and Vibration in the Working Environment.

Exposure Limit (EL)


An exposure limit (EL) is a level of exposure which is specified by a competent authority, or
some other authoritative organization such as a professional body, as an indicator of the level
to which workers can be exposed without serious injury. It is used as a general term and covers
the various expressions employed in national lists, such as maximum allowable concentration,
threshold limit value, permissible level, limit value, average limit value, permissible limit
,occupational exposure limit, industrial hygiene standards, etc.
The exact definition and intended application of ELs vary widely from one authority to another
and the underlying definitions and assumptions and the requirements of the appropriate
competent authority must be taken into account if they are used.
Detailed guidance on ELs and other aspects of assessment and control is provided by the
ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety (Geneva, 1998). Some references
concerning ELs for particular ambient factors are given in the Annex to the ILO Code of Practice:
Ambient Factors in the Workplace

Risk Assessment
Where there are vibration risks then the employer is required to complete a specific risk
assessment.
This should include an assessment of exposure by:

Observation of specific working practices;

Reference to relevant information on the probable magnitude of the vibration corresponding


to the equipment used in the particular working conditions; and

If necessary, measurement of the magnitude of vibration to which employees are liable to


be exposed.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Measurement
The health hazard is commonly assessed using the average (root mean square) acceleration
level using a measuring instrument such as an accelerometer. Accelerometers are sensitive to
acceleration along a single axis. To assess the total vibration entering the hand measurements
should be taken along the orthogonal axes, x, y and z (see Figure 13).
The level of vibration is then calculated from the average reading.
Figure 13: The Orthogonal Axes
Figure 13: The Orthogonal Axes

Using a triaxial accelerometer the three axes are measured simultaneously. The vibration
dose received by a worker over a typical working day will depend on the characteristics of
the exposure such as duration and frequency as well as the vibration magnitude. In order to
account for the varying patterns of exposure the dose should be adjusted or normalised to
2
a standard
reference
working
Vibration
magnitude
(m/s ) period of 8 hours,
2.5 the nominal
3.5
5
7 day10(A (8)).14When comparing
20
exposures to vibrational energy it is important to ensure that the same reference periods are
Time to reach exposure action value
8
4
2
1
1/2
1/4
8 min
used for comparative purposes.
(hours)
Time to reach exposure limit value
>24
16
8
4
2
1
1
(hours) For Whole body vibration, measurement is made using the vibration meter or analyser connected
to a seat mat in position under the operator being assessed. The vibration to which the body is
detected
by three
(or accelerometers)
usually located inside a rubber
Table 9: subjected
ExposureisAction
Values
andtransducers
Exposure Limit
Values
mat which is commonly referred to as a whoopee cushion.
In a similar way to HAV, WBV measures in 3 directions; back-to-chest (x axis), right to left side
(y axis), and foot to head (z axis). The WBV A(8) value is worked out slightly differently to
HAV. It is thought that vibration levels will have different effects on the body dependent on the
direction the vibration is entering the body. So in addition to the frequency weightings, there is
a multiplication factor used on the x and y axes to increase the measured level. So for both the
x and y frequency weighted acceleration levels, a multiplication factor of 1.4 must be applied.

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Calculating Exposure
Exposure limits should be established according to current international knowledge and data.
International consensus standards describe useful methods for quantifying vibration severity for
whole-body vibration in ISO 2631-1:1997 and for hand-transmitted vibration in ISO 5349:1986.
In addition to these standards and this code, the information on the assessment of vibration
exposure and protective and preventive measures provided for in the Working Environment (Air
Pollution, Noise and Vibration) Convention (No. 148), and Recommendation (No. 156), 1977,
and the ILO code of practice Protection of workers against noise and vibration in the working
environment(Geneva, 1984) should apply. Further detailed information can be found in section
10 of the annex.
Within the UK the following action levels detailed in the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations
2005 for whole-body vibration apply:

A daily exposure action value of 0.5 m/s2 A(8),

at this level the employer must take actions to reduce risk.

A daily exposure limit value of 1.15 m/s2 A(8);

this is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any


single day

For hand arm vibration the following apply:

A daily exposure action value of 2.5 m/s2 A(8),

at this level the employer must take actions to reduce risk.

a daily exposure limit value of 5 m/s2 A(8);

this is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any


single day.

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Table 9 below provides the average vibration levels over the working day which will cause an
A8 of 2.5 m/s2 and 5 m/s2. These are the exposure action value and exposure limit value levels.
Table 9: Exposure Action Values and Exposure Limit Values
Vibration magnitude (m/s2)
Time to reach exposure action
value (hours)
Time to reach exposure limit
value (hours)

2.5

3.5

10

14

20

1/2

1/4

8 min

>24

16

Figure 14 below shows how the vibration magnitude and exposure time are combined to give
daily exposures. Exposures that lie in the green area (for example, a magnitude of 3 m/s2 and
a duration of 2 hours) are below the exposure action value; those in the yellow area are above
the exposure action value and those in the red area are above the exposure limit value.
Figure 14: The relationship between vibration magnitude (level), exposure duration and
Figure
14: Theaction
relationship
between
the exposure
and limit
values vibration magnitude (level), exposure duration and
the exposure action and limit values

Figure 15: The Ready Reckoner

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Exposure Points System and Ready-reckoner


The HSE provide a ready-reckoner for calculating daily vibration exposures using the vibration
magnitude and exposure time. The ready-reckoner covers a range of vibration levels up to 40
m/s2 and a range of exposure times up to ten hours. The exposures for different combinations
of vibration magnitude and exposure time are given in exposure points instead of values in m/
s2 A(8). This points system is used as:

Exposure points change simply with time: twice the exposure time, twice the number of
points;

Exposure points can be added together, for example where a worker is exposed to two or
more different sources of vibration in a day;

The exposure action value (2.5 m/s2 A(8)) is equal to 100 points;

The exposure limit value (5 m/s2 A(8)) is equal to 400 points.

Figure 15: The Ready Reckoner

Figure 16: HSE Vibration Exposure Calculator

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

Using the Ready-reckoner


1

Find the vibration magnitude (level) for the tool or process concerned (or the nearest
value) on the grey scale on the left of the table.

Find the exposure time (or the nearest value) on the grey scale across the bottom of the
table.

Find the value in the table that lines up with the magnitude and time. For example, for a
magnitude of 5 m/s2 and an exposure time of 3 hours, the exposure corresponds to 150
points.

Compare the points value with the exposure action and limit values (100 and 400 points
respectively). In the example above, the score of 150 points lies above the exposure
action value. The colour of the square containing the exposure points value tells you
whether the exposure exceeds, or is likely to exceed, the exposure action or limit value:

If a worker is exposed to more than one tool or process during the day, repeat steps 1-3
for each one, add the points, and compare the total with the exposure action value (100)
and the exposure limit value (400).

Exposure to More Than One Source of Vibration


Where a person is exposed to more than one source of vibration (perhaps because they use two
or more different tools or processes during the day) this must be calculated separately for each
one. This produces two or more partial vibration exposure values which must be combined to
give the overall daily exposure value for that employee. These partial exposures can be added
together using exposure points.

Example: Use of Partial Vibration Exposure


A construction company produces large concrete structures. Some of its employees use small
pneumatic breakers to remove surplus concrete and needle guns for scabbling (roughening
concrete surfaces to provide a bonding surface for additional concrete). The breakers have an
average vibration of about 8 m/s2 and are operated for about three hours on some days. The
needle guns are old models with a vibration level of 15 m/s2 and are operated for up to hour
per day. When an employee works with the breaker and the needle gun on the same day, the
partial exposures for the two operations are:
Breaker (8 m/s2 for 3 hours): 385 points
Scabbling (15 m/s2 for hour): 225 points
Total vibration exposure: 610 points

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Element IB6: Physical Agents 1 Noise and Vibration

The On-line Vibration Exposure Calculator


The HSEs on-line exposure calculator for hand-arm vibration is an alternative to the readyreckoner for calculating daily exposures quickly and easily. The calculator is shown in Figure 16
and is available in the vibration section of the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/vibration. (Note
that there are different calculators for hand-arm vibration and whole-body vibration.)
Figure 16: HSE Vibration Exposure Calculator
Figure 16: HSE Vibration Exposure Calculator

Controls
Vibration risks should be eliminated at source or adequately controlled and that the standard of
control is to a level that is as low as is reasonably practicable.
Where an exposure action value is likely to be reached or exceeded, the employer should
control exposure by establishing and implementing a programme of organisational and
technical measures appropriate to the activity. The control measures should be in keeping with
the general principles of prevention.
If an exposure limit value is exceeded, the employer must:

Reduce exposure to vibration to below the limit value;

Identify the reason for that limit being exceeded; and

Modify the measures taken to prevent it being exceeded again.

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The above requirements do not apply where the exposure of an employee to vibration is usually
below the exposure action value but varies markedly from time to time and may occasionally
exceed the exposure limit value, provided that:

Any exposure to vibration averaged over one week is less than the exposure limit value;

There is evidence to show that the risk from the actual pattern of exposure is less than the
corresponding risk from constant exposure at the exposure limit value;

Risk is reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable, taking into account the
special circumstances; and

The employees concerned are subject to increased health surveillance, where such
surveillance is appropriate.

Hand Arm Vibration


Employees should be provided with information and training on the nature and risks and early
indications of the injury and the methods of reporting signs of the injury.
Action workers can take to minimise the risk include working practices to minimise vibration
directed to the hands maintaining good blood circulation, maintenance of workplace equipment,
reporting defects and problems with equipment.
Reducing the vibrational energy can be achieved by:

Specifying new equipment as low vibration;

Substituting the process equipment, with equipment which contains less vibration;

Designing tools for low vibration including tools with anti-vibrational mounts and handles;

Correct maintenance of equipment and tools, e.g. sharpening chainsaw teeth;

Reducing the grip and push forces associated with work equipment; and

Avoiding uninterrupted vibration exposure over long periods by breaking up the work activity.

Where people have to work in cold areas there maybe specific measures that could be
introduced in order to maintain blood circulation:

Wearing gloves;

Using heating pads to keep their hands warm;

Tools with heated handles;

Avoiding pneumatic exhausts, which discharged towards the workers hands;

Arrangements to allow warm up before starting work and during work periods; and

Wearing warm weatherproof clothing in cold or wet areas.

Vibration is a complex area where detailed assessment of the exposure levels, should be
undertaken only with expert guidance.

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Whole Body Vibration


Seat vibration can be reduced by:

Ensure vehicles and machinery are adequately maintained, particularly suspension


components;

Check drivers seat to ensure it is in good repair and gives good support;

Check whether suspension seat is fitted suitable to the vibration characteristics of the
machine;

Adjust seat to correct weight of driver;

Choose correct vehicle or machine for the ground surface and task;

Ensure correct tyres are used at correct pressures;

Arrange for rotation of operators on high vibration machines; and

Where possible repair poor road surfaces, i.e. pot holes, clear debris or level out.

Health Surveillance
If the risk assessment indicates that there is a risk to the health of his employees who are, or
could be, exposed to vibration or employees are likely to be exposed to vibration at or above an
exposure action value the employer is required ensure that such employees are placed under
suitable health surveillance. Surveillance would normally be carried out using an appropriate
occupational health service providing examinations and clinical diagnosis.
A pre-employment medical examination should examine candidates forjobs affected by handarm vibration for Raynauds phenomenon of non-occupational origin and for hand-arm vibration
syndrome (HAVS) from previous employment. Where these symptoms are diagnosed, such
employment should not be offered unless vibration has been satisfactorily controlled.10.4.2.If
a worker is exposed to hand-transmitted vibration, the occupational health professional
responsible for health surveillance should:

Examine the worker periodically, as prescribed by national laws and regulations, for HAVS
and ask the worker about symptoms; and

Examine the worker for symptoms of possible neurological effects of vibration, such as
numbness and elevated sensory thresholds for temperature, pain, and other factors.

If it appears that these symptoms exist and may be related to vibration exposure, the employers
should be advised that control may be insufficient. The employer should review the assessment
in accordance with section 3.2 of the ILO code, and in particular control the causative vibration.
Because of possible association of back disorders with whole-body vibration, workers exposed
should be counseled during health surveillance about the importance of posture in seated jobs,
and about correct lifting technique.

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Information, Instruction and Training


Where there is a risk to health and / or employees are likely to be exposed to vibration at
or above an exposure action value the employer shall provide those employees and their
representatives with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.
This should include:

The organisational and technical measures taken in order to comply with the requirements
of law;

The exposure limit values;

The significant findings of the risk assessment, including any measurements taken with an
explanation of those findings;

Why and how to detect and report signs of injury;

Entitlement to appropriate health surveillance and its purposes;

Safe working practices to minimise exposure to vibration; and

The collective results of any health surveillance undertaken in a form calculated to prevent
those results from being identified as relating to a particular person.

The provision of relevant information, training and instruction will need to be updated by the
employer following any significant change in the circumstances of the risk to employees, e.g.
level of exposure changes, change of equipment, etc.

Conclusions
Whilst vibration risks are specific issues in themselves they often involve other activities and
equipment which may present other hazards and risks. It is important therefore that the employer
considers the risks associated with vibration in a holistic way by ensuring that risk assessments
are thorough and take account of other possible causes of ill health as well as those associated
with exposure to vibration, e.g. back pain experienced by a delivery driver may not be solely
due to WBV although it may contribute.

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References
Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus, Harper Collins 1993.
Harrington, Gill, Aw and Gardiner, Occupational Health, fourth edition, Blackwell 1998.
B. J. Smith, R. J. Peters and S. Owen, Acoustics and Noise Control, Addison, Wesley,
Longman Ltd, 1996.
Controlling noise at work, The Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005, L108, HSE
Books, 2005.
Sound solutions: Techniques to reduce noise at work, HSG 138, HSE Books, 1995 out of print
but case studies reproduced on HSE website www.hse.gov.uk/noise
HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/calculator.htm
Control the risks from hand-arm vibration, Advice for employers on The Control of Vibration at
Work Regulations 2005, INDG 175, HSE, 2005.
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, 2005, L140.
Whole-body vibration, The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 Guidance on
Regulations L141.
Vibration Solutions: Practical ways to reduce the risk of hand-arm vibration injury, HSG 170.
ILO Code of Practice: Protection of Workers against Noise and Vibration in the working environment
ILO R146 Occupational Safety and Health Recommendations, 1981
ILO Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981
ILO World Day for Safety and Health at Work, 2005

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