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New Noise at Work Regulations, Will You be Ready?

The current Noise at Work Regulations are due to be replaced in February 2006. "A long way off," some may say, but will you be ready, or are you currently performing noise surveys which will become redundant in just over 2 years? The following article describes the history so far and the changes to expect.

In 1993 a proposal sought to establish a new framework for the regulation of physical agents at work applying initially to noise, vibration, optical radiation and non-optical electromagnetic fields.

In 1999 the German Presidency put forward a revised proposal limiting the scope of the Directive to vibration (hand-arm and whole body) with the intention of developing further Directives on the other physical agents sequentially rather than in a single Directive.

The UK supported this decision to deal with the physical agents sequentially rather than as a single Directive.

Following on from the political agreement on the Vibration Directive in November 2000, the Swedish Presidency introduced a proposal for a Noise Directive in January 2001. This would repeal the existing 1986 Noise Directive (86/188/EEC), implemented in the UK by the Noise at Work Regulations 1989.

Initial Proposals

The main changes in the Swedish proposal to the 1986 Directive were:

  • The action values of 90 dB(A) and 85 dB(A) were reduced to a limit value of 85 dB(A) and an action value of 80 dB(A).
  • A lower action value of 112 Pa for impulse noise instead of 200PA.
  • Health surveillance by or under the responsibility of a doctor was required at 80 dB(A) and 112 Pa.
  • Hearing protection, which must be worn above 85 dB(A) and 200 PA, must reduce the risk to below 80 dB(A) and 112 Pa.
  • There was no derogation provision from the hearing protection requirements.
  • There were no exceptions for sea and air transport.

Proposal Changed to Meet the Needs of the UK

However following negotiations the UK negotiators achieved considerable success in reducing the burdens on industry implicit in the draft without detracting from the benefits to workers' health.

The table on the following page, shows the main differences between the final proposal and the 1986 Directive:

Scienco are currently performing workplace noise survey to both standards, ensuring there will be no need to repeat the exercise once the new directive is adopted.

If you would like further information on this subject or assistance, follow the contact link below or call us on our local rate number 0845 6039053.

Comparison Table



1986 Directive

New Directive



Reduce risk

To lowest level reasonably practicable

Eliminated at source or reduced to a minimum

Assess and where necessary measure exposure

Where noise experienced

Where are, or are likely to be, exposed to risk

Assessment period

8 hours

8 hours or one week

Provide information and training to workers and reps

85 dB(A) and 200 Pa

80 dB(A) and 112 Pa

Workers' right to hearing checks / audiometric testing

85 dB(A) by or under the responsibility of a doctor

85 dB(A) by or under the responsibility of a doctor. To be available at 80 dB(A) and 112 Pa where risk indicated

Health surveillance


Provisions to ensure appropriate health surveillance where risk indicated

Make hearing protection available

85 dB(A) and 200 Pa

80 dB(A) and 112 Pa

Hearing protection to be worn

90 dB(A) and 200 Pa

85 dB(A) and 140 Pa selected to eliminate risk or reduce to a minimum

Limit on exposure


87 dB(A) and 200 Pa at the ear

Programme of control measures

90 dB(A) and 200 Pa

85 dB(A) and 140 Pa

Delimit areas, put up signs and control access

Where reasonably practicable 90 dB(A) and 200 Pa

     85 dB(A) and 140 Pa where technically feasible and the risk of exposure so justifies

Workers reps to receive information

85 dB(A) and 200 Pa (assessments) 90 dB(A) and 200 Pa(programmes of measures)

Refers back to Directive 89/391/EEC


Weekly exposure averaging; From hearing protection where health and safety risk

From hearing protection where health and safety risk


Transitional periods


5 years from exposure limitation for shipping.

 2 years from

implementation for music and entertainment sectors

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