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RR866 - Influencing dutyholders behaviour regarding the management of noise risks

This research addressed three research questions: (1) What factors influence employers’ decisions and practices in controlling noise risks? (2) What is the relative importance of these factors? and; (3) How do these factors vary between high and low performing companies? A mixed methods approach was adopted in which 215 questionnaires were completed and 15 in-depth interviews carried out with manufacturing dutyholders.

Three factors were found to influence noise management: (i) managers' own knowledge/awareness of noise risks and associated controls, (ii) the health and safety culture of the company and (iii) its size. Health and safety culture was found to have the greatest influence, indicating that cultural changes could generate the most improvements. Managers generally underestimated the significance of noise as an occupational health risk; a critical knowledge gap was understanding what controls exist and would work in practice. The size of the company influenced the approach taken with smaller companies showing increased likelihood of reduced quality in noise management (ie low performance). Small companies, or low performers, were more constrained by health and safety resources than their high performing (generally large) counterparts. A preoccupation with measuring noise rather than implementing the right solutions was apparent amongst low performers, creating a barrier to going beyond personal hearing protection. Future noise interventions should address these factors and not underestimate the potential influence of culture change.

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 2011-04-14