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RR735 - Review of diver noise exposure

Divers are exposed to high levels of noise from a variety of sources both above and below water. The noise exposure should comply with ‘The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005’ (CoNaWR05). A detailed review of diver noise exposure is presented encompassing diver hearing, noise sources, exposure levels and control measures. Divers are routinely exposed to a range of noise sources of sufficiently high intensity to cause auditory damage and audiometric studies indicate that diver hearing is impaired by exposure to factors associated with diving. Human hearing underwater, in cases where the diver’s ear is wet, is less sensitive than in air and should be assessed using an underwater-weighting scale. Manufacturers of diving equipment and employers of divers have a joint responsibility to ensure compliance with the exposure values in the CoNaWR05, although noise is only one hazard to a diver, and a balanced risk assessment must be applied to the whole diving operation. A diver noise reduction strategy is proposed and a health surveillance programme, involving audiometric tests for divers, should be established.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-01-27