Legal provisions regarding noise at the workplace

(Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance)

Paragraph signs

Source: Gina Sanders, fotolia

To combat the negative effects of noise at workplaces and protect employees from unnecessarily high exposure, the social accident insurance institutions and government departments issued a number of regulations on noise protection at the workplace, starting in the Seventies. The most important of these are:

  • Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV – Verordnung über Arbeitsstätten) of 12th August 2004, most recently amended by Article 5(1) of the Ordinance of 18th October 2017
  • Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance (LärmVibrationsArbSchV) of 6th March 2007, most recently amended by Article 5(5) of the Ordinance of 18th October 2017, in conjunction with the Technical Rules concerning the Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance (TRLV Lärm) of 5th September 2017.

With regard to noise, the Workplace Ordinance states in Section 3.7 of the Appendix that the sound pressure level in workplaces is to be kept at the lowest level permitted by the type of industrial operation. The sound pressure level is "to be reduced, depending on use and the tasks being performed, to such an extent that no health impairments are incurred by employees". Its application has been limited to the range beneath the lower action value of 80 dB(A) set in the Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance. The extent of the permitted noise exposure and any possible preventive measures have to be based on the state of technology and ergonomic findings. Guidance may be obtained from Guideline VDI 2058, Part 3, which describes the various effects of noise and defines guide values of 55 dB(A) and 70 dB(A) for different activities.

The Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance transposes two European OSH directives (2003/10/EC "Noise" and 2002/44/EC "Vibration") into national German law. To lend concrete expression to the requirements they define, the Committee for Industrial Safety (ABS) issued Technical Rules (TRLV) for the fields of "noise" and "vibration". By observing these Technical Rules, company operators can be sure of complying with the requirements of the ordinance (presumption of conformity).

As part of the risk assessment, the employer is obliged to determine whether his workers are or could be exposed to noise. In addition, mutual or combined effects are possible when workers are exposed simultaneously to noise and work-related ototoxic substances.

The German Ordinance on noise and vibration protection specifies a number of action values for assessment of the noise exposure that necessitate prevention measures when they are reached or exceeded. A daily noise exposure level LEX,8h from 80 dB(A) or a peak sound pressure level LpCpeak from 135 dB(C) calls for the following:

  • Informing employees (when the action value is reached)
  • Providing hearing protection (when the action value is exceeded)
  • Offer of preventive occupational medical care (when the action value is exceeded)

From a daily noise exposure level LEX,8h of 85 dB(A) or a peak sound pressure level LpCpeak of 137 dB(C), the following applies:

  • Obligation to wear hearing protection (when the action value is reached)
  • Arranging of preventive occupational medical care (mandatory, when the action value is reached)
  • Marking of noisy areas (when the action value is exceeded)
  • Preparation of a noise reduction programme (when the action value is exceeded)

A flyer issued jointly by the IFA and the Woodworking and metalworking expert committee at the DGUV provides an overview summarising the content of the Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance. This flyer can be downloaded or requested from the IFA. A detailed presentation of the legal provisions can also be found in the paperbacks issued by the IFA on the measurement and assessment of noise at work ("0 Dezibel 0 Dezibel = 3 Dezibel"; "Lärmmessung im Betrieb"; both in German).


Download legal provisions:

Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV – Verordnung über Arbeitsstätten)

Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance (LärmVibrationsArbSchV)

Technical Rules concerning the Noise and Vibration OSH Ordinance (TRLV Lärm)

Contact

Dr Sandra Dantscher

Division 4: Ergonomics, Physical environmental factors

Tel: +49 2241 231-2613
Fax: +49 2241 231-2234