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Noise induced hearing loss

The problem

Exposure to noise at work can cause irreversible hearing damage. It is one of the commonest health problems and can be difficult to detect as the effects build up gradually over time.

Throughout all industry, industrial hearing loss remains the occupational disease with the highest number of civil claims accounting for about 75% of all occupational disease claims.

Noise levels

Most food and drink industries have processes which emit high noise levels exceeding the 80dB(A) and 85dB(A) levels at which employers are required to take action under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

For example, noise levels of 85-95dB(A) occur in the bakery, dairy and confectionery industries but can rise to 100dB(A) in milling, drink production and the meat industry.

The nine processes listed below are particularly associated with high noise levels. The inclusion of these processes is supported by hearing loss civil claim data from one of the main trade unions representing workers in the food and drink industries.

  1. Glass bottling lines: 85-100dB(A)
  2. Product impact on hoppers: 90-100dB(A)
  3. Wrapping, cutting wrap, bagging etc: 85-95dB(A)
  4. Bowl choppers: > 90db(A)
  5. Pneumatic noise and compressed air: 85-95dB(A)
  6. Milling operations: 85-100dB(A)
  7. Saws/cutting machinery: 85-107dB(A)
  8. Blast chillers/freezers: 85-107dB(A)
  9. Packaging machinery: 85-95dB(A)
  10. Wheeled trolleys/racks: up to 107dB(A) (from wheel bearings)

Managing the risk - hierarchy of control measures

Protection is best achieved by controlling noise at source. Follow this sequence to reduce exposure - wearing hearing protection is the last resort:

Further guidance

Updated 2012-11-29