European Union says "Stop that Noise"
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.
- An estimated one third of Europe's workers (more than 60 million people) are exposed to high levels of noise for more than a quarter of their working time.
- Almost 40 million workers (equivalent to the entire population of Spain) have to raise their voices above normal conversational levels in order to be heard for at least half of their working hours.
- A new European Directive on occupational noise will come into force on 15 February 2006.
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 https://www.healthy-workplaces.eu/en/european-week-safety-and-health-work
'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'.
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