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Exposure to noise

Exposure to noise

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Exposure to noise

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Health hygiene and safety at work

Exposure to noise

Document or Iniciative

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)

Seventeenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC [See amending acts].

Summary

EXPOSURE LIMIT VALUES AND EXPOSURE ACTION VALUES

The physical parameters used to measure noise are as follows: peak sound pressure (maximum value of instantaneous noise pressure), daily noise exposure level and weekly noise exposure level.
The exposure limit value is fixed at 87 decibels (taking into account the attenuation provided by the individual hearing protectors worn by the workers) and the exposure action values are fixed at 80 decibels (lower value) and 85 decibels (upper value).

OBLIGATIONS OF EMPLOYERS

Determination and assessment of risks

In carrying out the obligations laid down in the framework Directive on the improvement of the health of workers at work, the employer, via the intermediary of the competent services, must assess and, if necessary, measure the levels of noise to which workers are exposed. The results of this assessment must be recorded on a suitable medium and kept up to date on a regular basis.

The employer must give particular attention, when carrying out the risk assessment, to the following:

  • the level, type and duration of exposure, including any exposure to impulsive noise;
  • the exposure limit values and the exposure action values;
  • any effects concerning the health and safety of workers belonging to particularly sensitive risk groups;
  • as far as technically achievable, any effects on workers’ health and safety resulting from interactions between noise and work-related ototoxic substances, and between noise and vibrations;
  • any indirect effects on workers’ health and safety resulting from interactions between noise and warning signals or other sounds;
  • information on noise emission provided by manufacturers of work equipment in accordance with the relevant Community directives;
  • the existence of alternative work equipment designed to reduce the noise emission;
  • the extension of exposure to noise beyond normal working hours under the employer’s responsibility;
  • appropriate information obtained following health surveillance;
  • the availability of hearing protectors with adequate attenuation characteristics.

Provisions aimed at avoiding or reducing exposure

Taking account of technical progress and of the availability of measures to control the risk at source, the risks arising from exposure to noise must be eliminated at their source or reduced to a minimum. The reduction of the basic risks must be based on the general principles of prevention set out in Directive 89/391/EEC and take into account in particular:

  • other working methods that require less exposure to noise;
  • the choice of appropriate work equipment;
  • the design and layout of workplaces and work stations;
  • adequate information and training to instruct workers to use work equipment correctly in order to reduce their exposure to noise to a minimum;
  • noise reduction by technical methods: reducing airborne noise (shields, enclosures, sound-absorbant coverings) and reducing structure-borne noise (dampening, isolation);
  • appropriate maintenance programmes for work equipment, the work place and workplace systems;
  • organisation of work to reduce noise: limitation of the duration and intensity of exposure and appropriate work schedules with adequate rest periods.

Workplaces where workers are likely to be exposed to noise exceeding the exposure action values should be marked with appropriate signs and access to them should be restricted.

Where, owing to the nature of the activity, a worker benefits from the use of rest facilities under the responsibility of the employer, noise in these facilities must be reduced to a level compatible with their purpose and the conditions of use.

Personal protection

If the risks arising from exposure to noise cannot be prevented by other means, properly fitting individual hearing protectors must be made available to workers and used by them in accordance with Directive 89/656/EEC on the use of personal protective equipment:

  • where noise exposure exceeds the lower exposure action values, the employer must make individual hearing protectors available to workers;
  • where noise exposure matches or exceeds the upper exposure action values, individual hearing protectors must be used;
  • the individual hearing protectors must be so selected as to eliminate the risk to hearing or to reduce the risk to a minimum.

Limitation of exposure

Under no circumstances may the exposure of the worker exceed the exposure limit values. If, despite the measures taken to implement this Directive, exposures above the exposure limit values are detected, the employer must:

  • take immediate action to reduce the exposure to below the exposure limit values,
  • identify the reasons why overexposure has occurred and amend the protection and prevention measures in order to avoid any recurrence.

Worker information and training

The employer must ensure that workers who are exposed to noise at work at or above the lower exposure action values, and/or their representatives, receive information and training relating to risks resulting from exposure to noise concerning, in particular:

  • the nature of such risks;
  • the measures taken to implement this Directive in order to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the risks from noise, including the circumstances in which the measures apply;
  • the exposure limit values and the exposure action values;
  • the results of the assessment and measurement of the noise carried out, together with an explanation of their significance and potential risks;
  • the correct use of hearing protectors;
  • why and how to detect and report signs of hearing damage;
  • the circumstances in which workers are entitled to health surveillance and the purpose of health surveillance;
  • safe working practices to minimise exposure to noise.

Consultation and participation of workers

Consultation and participation of workers and/or of their representatives must take place on the matters covered by this Directive, in particular:

  • the assessment of risks and identification of measures to be taken;
  • the actions aimed at eliminating or reducing risks arising from exposure to noise;
  • the choice of individual hearing protectors.

MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

Health surveillance

When the noise levels present a health risk, Member States must adopt provisions to ensure the appropriate health surveillance of workers (preservation of the hearing function):

  • workers whose exposure exceeds the upper exposure action values have the right to have their hearing checked;
  • workers whose exposure to noise exceed the lower exposure action values have the right to preventive audiometric testing.

Member States must establish arrangements to ensure that individual health records are made and kept up to date for these workers. These records may be consulted at a later date and are accessible to the workers concerned.

Where, as a result of surveillance of the hearing function, a worker is found to have an identifiable hearing damage, a doctor shall assess whether the damage is likely to be the result of exposure to noise at work. If this is the case:

  • the worker must be informed by the doctor or other suitably qualified person of the result which relates to him or her personally.
  • the employer must review the risk assessment;
  • the employer must review the measures provided for to eliminate or reduce risks;
  • the employer must take into account the advice of the occupational health-care professional or other suitably qualified person in implementing any measures required to eliminate or reduce risk, including the possibility of assigning the worker to alternative work where there is no risk of further exposure;
  • the employer must arrange continued health surveillance and provide for a review of the health status of any other worker who has been similarly exposed.

Derogations

In exceptional situations where, because of the nature of the work, the full and proper use of individual hearing protectors would be likely to cause greater risk to health or safety than not using such protectors, Member States may grant derogations from the provisions concerning personal protection and limitation of exposure.

Such derogations must be reviewed every four years and withdrawn as soon as the justifying circumstances no longer obtain.

Code of conduct

In the music and entertainment sectors, Member States may have recourse to a transitional period of up to a maximum of two years to prepare a code of conduct providing for practical guidelines to help workers and employers in these sectors to meet their legal obligations as laid down in this Directive.

Reporting

Every five years Member States must provide a report to the Commission on the practical implementation of this Directive. On the basis of those reports, the Commission shall carry out an overall assessment.

References

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2003/10/EC

15.02.2003

15.02.2006
For the music and entertainment sector: 15.02.2008
For personnel on board seagoing vessels: 15.02.2011

OJ L 42 of 15.02.2003

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2007/30/EC

28.6.2007

31.12.2012

OJ L 165 of 27.6.2007

Exposure to electromagnetic fields

Exposure to electromagnetic fields

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Exposure to electromagnetic fields

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Health hygiene and safety at work

Exposure to electromagnetic fields

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2004/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (18th individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) [See amending acts].

Summary

This Directive forms part of a “package” of four directives on the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents: noise, vibration, electromagnetic fields and optical radiation.
It is an individual directive under framework Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work.

SCOPE

The Directive provides for measures to protect workers from the risks related to electromagnetic fields. However, it does not address the long-term effects, including the carcinogenic effects, that could result from exposure to electrical, magnetic and electromagnetic fields, for which there is no conclusive scientific data establishing a causal link.

Moreover, the Directive does not yet provide for exposure limits for static magnetic fields, for which further scientific evaluations are awaited.

The measures foreseen create a minimum basis of protection for all workers in the Union, leaving the Member States the option of keeping or adopting more favourable provisions. Moreover, its implementation cannot be used to justify any regression of the (possibly more favourable) provisions that apply in each Member State before its entry into force.

EXPOSURE LIMIT VALUES AND ACTION VALUES

The Directive lays down two types of value for exposure of workers:

  • “exposure limit values” defined in Table 1 of the Annex to the Directive on the basis of the various frequencies that are recognised as having harmful effects on the human cardiovascular system or the central nervous system or as being capable of causing whole-body heat stress or excessive localised heating of tissues;
  • “action values”, or values above which employers must take the measures specified in the Directive. Compliance with these action values will ensure compliance with the relevant exposure limit values. These action values are obtained from the guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). They are set out in Table 2 of the Annex to the Directive (13 frequency ranges that apply to all electromagnetic fields and are based on directly measurable parameters).

OBLIGATIONS OF EMPLOYERS

The Directive lays down various types of obligation with which employers must comply.

Determination of exposure and assessment of risks

  • assessment, measurement and calculation, by the appropriate services and at regular intervals, of the levels of electromagnetic fields to which workers are exposed;
  • saving of the results of this assessment on a suitable data storage medium so that they can be consulted at a later stage;
  • consideration in the assessment of risks (among other things, of the level, frequency spectrum, duration and type of exposure), of the indirect effects, such as interference with medical electronic equipment and devices, fires and explosions resulting from ignition of flammable materials.

Provisions designed to avoid or reduce risks

Once the action values are exceeded, employers must devise and implement an action plan comprising technical and/or organisational measures intended to prevent exposure from exceeding the exposure limit values (modification of working methods, choice of appropriate work equipment, better design of work stations, etc.). However, employers are not obliged to do so if they prove that there are no risks to the health of workers.

If, despite the measures taken by the employer to limit the risks, the exposure limit values are exceeded, the employer must take immediate action in order to reduce exposure to an authorised level.

Worker information and training

Exposed workers or their representatives must receive all necessary information and training, particularly relating to the outcome of the risk assessment, the measures taken by the employer, safe working practices, the detection of adverse effects and the circumstances in which workers are entitled to health surveillance.

Consultation and participation of workers

The Directive restricts itself to the requirements laid down in framework Directive 89/391/EEC.

MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

Health surveillance

The Directive provides for the requirement of appropriate surveillance of the health of exposed workers with the objective of preventing any adverse effects due to exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Where exposure exceeds the limit values, a medical examination is foreseen. If it transpires that the health of the workers concerned has been harmed as a result of this exposure, a reassessment of the risks must be carried out.
Measures are also foreseen to ensure that the doctor responsible for the health surveillance has access to the results of the risk assessment, while the workers concerned will be able to have access to their own personal health records, at their request.

Sanctions

The Member States must provide for adequate sanctions in the event of infringement of the national provisions transposing the Directive.

Reports

Member States must provide a report to the Commission every five years on the practical implementation of the Directive, indicating the points of view of the social partners.

Every five years, the Commission must inform the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health Protection at Work of the content of the reports of the Member States. It must also send them an assessment of developments in this field, in particular as regards exposure to static magnetic fields.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2004/40/EC

30.04.2004

30.10.2013

OJ L 184 of 24.05.2004

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2007/30/EC

28.6.2007

31.12.2012

OJ L 165 of 27.6.2007

Directive 2008/46/CE

26.4.2008

OJ L 114 of 26.4.2008

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008

11.12.2008

OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Directive 2012/11/EU

24.4.2012

30.10.2013

OJ L 110 of 24.4.2012

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2004/40/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated versionis for reference purpose only.