Noise is undesired sound that can cause nuisance or harm to health. Sound may be perceived as a nuisance and disturbing even at relatively low sound pressure levels. This in turn may cause stress reactions, which have a negative impact on workers' performance and their ability to concentrate. Reaction errors often occur as a result. These, and reduced perceptibility of signals at higher sound levels, can increase the risk of accident. Long-term occupational exposure to noise may result in health impairments, particularly hearing loss.
Some four to five million workers in Germany are exposed at their workplaces to noise posing a threat to their health. Despite considerable advances in prevention activity, noise-induced hearing loss still accounts for the highest number of recognised cases of occupational disease. The German Social Accident Insurance Institutions pay pensions amounting to over €100 million each year owing to noise-induced hearing loss alone.
The IFA supports the accident insurance institutions in performing workplace measurements that are complicated or require special instrumentation, for example where peak sound pressure levels are extremely high or measurements are performed under a helmet or with use of an artificial head. At the initiative of the accident insurance institutions, companies are offered advice on noise control, for example in order for the room acoustics situation in workspaces to be improved. This advice is particularly advantageous during the planning of new workplaces, in order for noise problems to be identified in good time and noise control measures planned. The institute is a European notified body for hearing protectors (EU type examinations), a test body for noise emissions from machines (part test under the EG Machinery Directive) and a calibration body for sound level meters. A complete overview of the main activities of Unit 4.1 "Noise" can be found in About us. Research and investigation projects in all of these areas are also conducted at the instigation of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions.
The IFA offers practical solutions on various aspects of noise protection at the workplace. These are divided into three categories: