Employers and dutyholders are required under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) to provide workers with equipment that meets relevant supply laws. They must also adhere to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers guidance which sets out an employer’s legal obligations. Paul Taylor, business development director for industrial services at TÜV SÜD, looks at the issue of machinery noise.
Manufacturers of machinery are legally required to provide information about the noise emissions from their machinery if it exceeds certain levels. They are also legally required to ensure that machinery is designed and constructed to reduce noise risks to the lowest level, alongside use of protective measures and information relating to any remaining noise risk. Purchasers of machinery should therefore expect equipment that is being sold on the market to reflect technical progress in low-noise design.
To ensure that noise levels are minimised, not only should purchasers take noise into account when selecting machinery, it should also be maintained in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations. Machines deteriorate with age and use and, if they are not maintained appropriately, they are likely to generate more noise because of worn parts, poor lubrication and the vibration of loose panels.
Appropriate maintenance should therefore prevent noise emissions increasing over time and ensure that a machine’s performance does not deteriorate so that it puts employees at risk from increased noise emissions. Likewise, it is vital to have a company policy in place that requires machinery operators to report any unusually high noise levels and that they regularly check that machines are operating properly.
The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, which is the UK implementation of the European Union’s (EU) Machinery Directive, require manufacturers and suppliers of machinery to comply with particular essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs):
There are also separate regulations for equipment for use outdoors – the Noise Emission in the Environment by Equipment for Use Outdoors Regulations 2001. The guaranteed sound power level must be marked on the equipment. The responsible person must also ensure that the machinery has been UKCA marked and has the indication of guaranteed sound power level. The equipment must also be accompanied by a declaration of conformity. Qualifying Northern Ireland products can be placed on the GB market with the CE and CE UKNI conformity markings.
A full list of equipment to which the 2001 Regulations apply can be found in its Annex A. This covers equipment subject to noise limits, such as compaction machines and loaders, as well as equipment subject to noise marking, such as conveyor belts, high pressure flushers, and power generators (> 400 kW).
For equipment that is subject to noise marking, the manufacturer or their authorised representative, must subject the equipment to an ‘internal control of production procedure’ which is referred to in Annex D, and for which an approved body must be involved.
UK approved bodies can assess equipment for the GB market against GB requirements, which are currently the same as EU requirements. UK approved bodies must be established in the UK and be independent of the manufacturer. Before they can issue a certificate of conformity, an approved body must examine a product’s technical documentation and supporting evidence to assess the adequacy of the technical design. If they find that the equipment does not conform, they will require the manufacturer to take corrective measures.
Any CE certification assessments carried out by non-UK approved bodies before 1 January 2023 can be used to declare existing products as compliant with UKCA. Products must still bear UKCA marking and a UK Approved Body conformity assessment will be required when the certificate expires or after 31 December 2027, whichever is sooner.
Any equipment that is subject to noise limits must be subject to noise emission limits tests before placing it on the market or putting into service. it. This means that the manufacturer, or their authorised representative, must subject equipment to one of the following conformity assessment procedures:
For any of these three assessments, the regulations require the involvement of UK based conformity assessment bodies.
If you have already placed a fully manufactured product on the EEA or the UK market before 1 January 2021, you do not need to do anything new. Anyone found not to be complying with the Regulations may be liable to a penalty, which include a fine or a prison sentence of up to three months (or both) for the most serious offences.
HSE advises that machinery owners check with their manufacturer and/or supplier to ensure that the noise information they have made available is a reliable guide for the intended use of the equipment. A manufacturer should therefore state emission sound pressure levels that are representative of the noisiest operation in typical use of a machine. This means that they may provide noise emissions for more than one operating condition for some classes of machine.
Even though BS EN ISO 12001 states that noise emission data should represent the noisiest operation in typical use of the machine under test, it is worth noting that data may not always be supplied for the noisiest operation. If the purchaser has a specific use in mind for the machine, they can also ask the manufacturer to provide relevant noise data, but this is not a legal requirement. Ultimately, the manufacturers’ noise emission data in the instruction manual should enable the purchaser to compare similar machines and identify the most suitable machine when buying or hiring new machinery.