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European Union says "Stop that Noise"

May 2005
Sheila Pantry OBE

A Europe-wide campaign was launched on International Noise Awareness Day - 20 April 2005, to tackle one of Europe's most persistent workplace health problems - noise at work.

Noise-induced hearing loss has been recognised as 'the most prevalent, irreversible industrial disease'. But actually noise at work can cost you much more than your hearing! It can be a causal factor in accidents, contribute to work-related stress, and may act together with other workplace hazards to cause ill health.

The figures show that noise at work is still a serious but often underestimated threat to millions of European workers. The issue comes under the spotlight as the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work launched its major campaign in more than 30 countries throughout the continent. Backed by the European Parliament, Commission and Luxembourg EU Presidency, the campaign, with its slogan 'STOP THAT NOISE!', will culminate in the annual European Week for Safety and Health at Work on 24-28 October 2005.

Vladimir Spidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said: 'Noise goes beyond hearing problems; it can cause workplace accidents and increase stress levels. Workers will get more hearing protection under new measures coming into force in all EU Member States by February 2006 which will set a limit of 87 decibels for workers' daily exposure to noise. I welcome the fact that this campaign will raise awareness of these measures'.

The campaign, which will be underpinned by a range of printed and online information, including examples of good practice, will be supported by thousands of events in 31 European countries, including Member States, as well as candidate and EFTA countries. Coordinated by the Agency's network of National Focal Points, events will range from training initiatives and promotional campaigns to seminars and workshops. In addition, businesses and occupational safety organisations will be invited to sign an online campaign charter to demonstrate their commitment to more effective noise management. Full details can be found at the Agency's special European Week 2005 website

'Our goal is not only to raise awareness of the many risks which noise brings to the workplace and the workers', said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, the Agency's Director. 'Equally important is to go one step further and provide the tools to help improve noise management across European industries and sectors. The campaign will target a wide spectrum of stakeholders and through them individual companies, providing them with guides, checklists for risk assessment and examples of good practice solutions all freely available from our website. What we hope to achieve at the end of the day is a clear understanding that the threat of noise goes far beyond traditionally 'loud' industries, that it can cost you more than your hearing, but also that it can be effectively controlled and its risks prevented or considerably reduced.'

To protect workers, the 2003 EU directive that comes into force in all Member States in 2006, sets a daily noise exposure limit of 87dB(A) and requires that 'the risks arising from exposure to noise shall be eliminated at their source or reduced to a minimum'.

Training and conferences... for your 2005 Diary

Look at the latest additions to the Diary of Events and you will see plans have been made already worldwide up to 2006 to have training courses, symposiums and conferences in many places in the world on a wide range of subjects. So do not wait until it is too late to get into these important events.

Remember that even if you cannot attend these many events, speakers and organisers are often willing to share their knowledge. Look at the details - where possible, we add in the web sites of these events so you can request further information. And do let me know if you are organising any OSHE events so that I can add them to the Diary.

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This month's FOCUS article is on Corporate Manslaughter: The UK Draft Bill 2005 by Michael Welham who is also a speaker at the EurOhse 2005 Conference: Creating a winning OSH culture see for full details.

Remember to look at the Products and Services on this web site and see what is new and updated, such as Fire Worldwide which has attracted users not only from the UK but around the world. It is a unique combination of full text and bibliographic databases concerning all aspects of fire and fire safety. George Collins, Chairman of the Executive Council of the Institute of Fire Prevention Officers says, "This collection of information is extremely valuable for those working in today's risk based fire industry who need up-to-date consultation, guidance and advice"

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Have a zero accident and incident-free year in 2005 in your workplace!