For more information on noise click here for the relevant chapter of the TUC guide to health and safety "Hazards at Work

Noise and vibration are among the most widespread and underestimated of industrial hazards.

Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing damage. Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work continues to be a significant occupational disease. Recent research suggests 170,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.

Factors that contribute to hearing damage are; noise levels and how long people are exposed to the noise, daily and over a number of years. Besides causing temporary or permanent hearing loss noise can also be a safety hazard. Noise can interfere with verbal communication, produce stress and affect performance.

Also anyone who regularly and frequently is exposed to high levels of vibration can suffer permanent injury. Vibration hazards at work usually present themselves in two forms:

- Whole body vibration (WBV) - where the body is shaken by a machine or vehicle
- or hand-arm vibration (HAV) - where the vibration effect is localised to a particular part of the body.

Exposure to hand-arm vibration may result in a range of health effects collectively known as Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome or HAVS. The most well known is vibration white finger; other effects include damage to nerves, muscles and joints. A Medical Research Council survey in estimated 301,000 people suffer from vibration white finger (VWF) in Great Britain.

Whole body vibration is caused by vibration transmitted from machinery, vehicles or sometimes through the floor. The most widely reported WBV injury is back pain.


TUC guidance for safety representatives

HSE noise pages

HSE: Hand arm and whole body vibration webpages

Worksmart FAQs and further resources

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