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  • Writer's pictureNeal Muggleton

To Regulations, and Beyond: Getting More from Your Investment in Statutory Compliance

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Get more than simple compliance.
Controlling exposure to occupational noise: The current regulatory landscape

In the UK, the current regulations which govern occupational noise exposure are the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, which are informed by the recommendations of the ISO, an internationally recognised authority for organisational safety, quality, and efficiency. For employers or Safety Managers working in construction, manufacturing, and other safety-regulated sectors across the UK and Europe, ISO 9612:2009 is a familiar standard for measuring occupational noise exposure.


These regulations ultimately require that employers take action to protect employees from exposure to unsafe levels of noise at work. This may include the provision of PPE, changes to ways of working, or the implementation of other controls measures. 


For an employer to understand exactly which actions they are required to take under the regulations, they must first measure the amount of occupational noise to which their employees are exposed. ISO 9612:2009 informs the framework for these measurements, providing employers with methodologies for calculating workers’ noise exposure levels.


And while the methods recommended by the ISO have been recognised as a great improvement over the imprecise techniques used prior to their implementation in 2009, they are - much like the methods that came before them - a product of their place in time. As such, there are inherent limitations to the exact situations and circumstances which they contemplate.


Current regulations, much like the statutes and methods that came before them, are a product of their place in time.

Similarly, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, which replaced the regulations of 1989, are now approaching twenty years in effect. This means that the current regulations have already been in place for longer than the regulations which came before them.


So what does that mean for teams looking to stay on top of their regulatory obligations, while getting as much as possible from their current approach to noise monitoring in the workplace?


We know that technology, systems, processes, and ways of working change faster today than they ever have before, and our knowledge of occupational noise and its impact has evolved dramatically since current regulations were last reviewed or refurbished. It's simply a matter of time before the rules and recommendations which govern our noise environments are updated to reflect how our operations and understanding have changed and modernised since the mid-2000s.


It's simply a matter of time before the rules and recommendations which govern our noise environments are updated to reflect how our operations and understanding have changed and modernised since the mid-2000s.

Ultimately, the teams that decide to take advantage of modern solutions today will be in the best possible position to continue driving toward compliance, and ensuring positive health and safety outcomes for workers, both now and in the future.


Looking forward: protecting your investment in regulatory compliance

Compliance with relevant noise monitoring regulations isn’t free, or easy. On the contrary, the cost and effort of compliance can quickly add up: between expensive third-party noise assessments, hearing conservation programmes, hearing testing, PPE, and even claims litigated or paid to employees for NIHL-related claims, it’s not uncommon for employers in the UK to spend thousands of pounds (and hours) every year to monitor and manage their noise environment. 


It’s not uncommon for employers in the UK to spend thousands of pounds (and hours) every year to monitor and manage their noise environment. 

Still, in the UK alone, nearly two million workers are exposed to unsafe levels of noise in the workplace, and thousands of new cases of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) due to occupational noise are reported every year. It’s clear from these statistics that current approaches to - and investments in - noise monitoring and management programmes simply aren’t doing enough


This contradiction (more effort coupled with uncertain or poor results) raises a simple but critical fundamental question that decision-makers and budget holders must seriously consider: if you’re going to spend time and money on programmes to ensure compliance and keep your workers healthy and safe, shouldn’t you get as much from that investment as possible?


Driving towards a modern version of workplace health and safety

To get the most from their efforts in noise monitoring and risk management, forward-thinking, economically savvy organisations are looking beyond bare regulatory compliance and adopting a truly modern solution to complement their current approach. 


Smart Alert by Minuendo is a purpose-built solution for better noise monitoring in the workplace. CE, UKCA and EN352 certified, it was created to fully prevent exposure to unsafe levels of sound in the workplace. 


Unlike traditional hearing assessments, which only provide a snapshot of your noise environment, Smart Alert offers continuous, personalised monitoring so that you can better understand the actual amount of noise to which a given worker is exposed at any point in time. With this approach, the dynamic nature of your working environment, and your approach to monitoring and managing it, are actually (perhaps for the first time) aligned.


And when it comes to meeting the ‘competent person’ standard set forth by the HSE, which mandates that a competent person be appointed to help carry out health and safety-related activities, including risk assessments, at work, Smart Alert can offer increased clarity and confidence. Since ‘competent persons’ don’t actually have to be formally trained, certified, or otherwise specially qualified to carry out a risk assessment, it’s key that the data they are working with is the best possible data, the kind which comes from an accurate, reliable, dynamic solution.


Smart Alert is a natural step forward for noise monitoring technology. It’s lightweight and easy to use, and it offers teams a better, easier way to take control of their noise environment. With automatic notifications, it alerts workers to unsafe conditions in real-time, and offers actionable guidance on exposure by providing drilled-down insights and critical context in an approachable interface that’s proven to drive better working habits. 


Even if workers are wearing hearing protectors (a situation to which current ISO methodologies for measuring workers’ exposure to noise does not apply), Smart Alert ensures situational awareness and eliminates the risk of over-protection while providing accurate, reliable noise monitoring via cutting-edge hear-through technology. 


By deploying Smart Alert on their worksite, teams are able to immediately gain a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not when it comes to their noise environment. Safety Managers, duty holders, and individual workers can take swift, decisive action - underpinned by highly accurate, reliable, real-time information -  to instantly reduce their exposure to unsafe levels of noise in the workplace. And in the longer term, the actionable intelligence that’s automatically collected and collated by Smart Alert can be used to identify trends, patterns, hotspots, and opportunities for the implementation of new or improved controls.


Where do standards from 2005 and 2009 leave teams in 2023 (and beyond)?

When current regulations were introduced, a solution like Smart Alert wasn’t widely available. In the case of ISO 9612:2009, for example, the result is a standard which doesn’t contemplate the possibility for more certain measurement of a worker’s individual exposure to occupational noise (the very kind of accurate, reliable data that Smart Alert is capable of providing).


But in recent years, there have been meaningful evolutions in technology, workplaces, and attitudes. Fortunately, today, there are ways for teams to strike a balance and simultaneously work towards compliance with current regulations while also striving for a more modern version of workplace health and safety. 


Fortunately, there are ways for teams to strike a balance and simultaneously work towards compliance while also striving for a more modern version of workplace health and safety. 

The fact that current regulations have been in place for some time does not mean that they are less effective or applicable; it simply means that any advances in technology or changes to ways of working that have occurred since their inception must naturally be taken into consideration alongside them in order to deploy a truly comprehensive noise monitoring programme. 


With Smart Alert, teams can gain an unprecedented level of insight into, and control over their noise environment. By going beyond bare regulatory compliance, they can take meaningful steps towards reducing their economic risk, driving better outcomes for their workforce, and getting as much as possible from their investment in noise monitoring and management.


 

The best way to discover how Smart Alert can evolve your approach to noise monitoring and drive better outcomes for your workforce is to see it in action. 


To schedule your personal online demo, just choose a time slot that works for you on this calendar. And if you’d like to chat with us to learn more about Smart Alert before you book your demo, feel free to contact us using these details.




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