Noise at work

The European Union’s Noise at Work Directive, soon to take effect, lays down new rules for protecting hearing on the job and draw increased attention to these problems worldwide. Officially known as "Directive 2003/10/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 February 2003 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise)", the new directive goes into effect on 15 February 2006.

View the EU White Paper (153Kb) PDF file in full.

Noise at work graph

Acoustic shocks can cause temporary or permanent traumatic damage to hearing. The directive sets a limit to these types of sudden loud sounds at 135dB(A) which is comparable to standing next to an airplane taking off.

The directive defines two critical levels for noise exposure throughout a working day. For up to 80dB(A) the employer has no obligations. Between 80dB(A) and 85dB(A) the employer should offer hearing protection and education. For levels exceeding 85dB the employees must be provided with and wear hearing protective equipment.