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Noise provisions for machines and the workstation

They refer to manufacturers and companies in equal measure

On the one hand, the noise mitigation regulations refer to manufacturers of products, machines, and devices emitting noise. On the other hand, they are applicable to entrepreneurs operating machines and workplaces which may be affected noise.

For manufacturers, the Product Safety Act (Produktsicherheitsgesetz - ProdSG) controls the obligation for technical noise reduction at the source (annex I, 1.5.8), referring to the EC Machine Directive (2006/42/EC annex I). On the one hand, the specification of noise emission values is required by law, including the related uncertainties (annex I, 1.7.4 u). These must not only be specified in the operating instructions of the machine (1.7.4.2), but also in the sales brochures (1.7.4.3) the machine is described in. Accordingly, advertising folders and catalogues containing technical information on the respective machines must provide information on the noise emission.

Regarding machines operated outdoors (construction machines, lawnmowers, etc.), there additionally is a noise labelling obligation pursuant to EC Directive 2000/14/EC. Such machines are labelled with their noise power level outside on the housing of the machine. Furthermore, noise emission thresholds are applicable to a part of these machines, e.g. for large excavation machines, bush hammers, and lawnmowers.

European standards serve supporting purposes

In order to support the machine manufacturers, European standards include some specifications of the general health and safety requirements from the Machine Directive. These specifications refer to the noise emission of machines, reduction measures and methods, as well as methods for determining, specifying, and verifying the noise emission. The standards are mostly developed in Standards Committees of the international standardisation institutions ISO or IEC and the European standardisation institutions CEN and CENELEC, respectively. Afterwards, they are adopted to the German set of standards DIN, VDE. Normally, these standards are identified as DIN EN ISO and DIN EN IEC standards, respectively. Up to now, there are more than 800 machine safety standards. Specific regulations are applicable to domestic appliances and toys.

Decisive ordinances for employers

In order to protect employees at workplaces against hazards caused by noise, the Ordinance on Occupational Safety concerning Noise and Vibration Protection (LärmVibrationsArbSchV) and the Ordinance on Occupational Healthcare (ArbMedVV) are decisive for the employer. The LärmVibrationsArbSchV and a part of the ArbMedVV serve for implementing the European Noise Directive 2003/10/EC to national law. In this, the LärmVibrationsArbSchV mainly emphasises the obligation for technical noise reduction, in addition to the implementation of a risk assessment. Hence, the entrepreneur is required to select and operate low-noise machines and procedures on the one hand. On the other hand, the organisation of working spaces must also be taken into consideration according to the advanced rules of noise reduction technology tried and approved in practice. Additionally, he/she must determine and identify possible noisy areas, perform a noise reduction scheme, as well as prompt occupational health surveillance.

These measures are related to action levels of 80 and 85dB(A) for the daily noise exposure level (LEX,8h) and of 135 and 137dB(C) for the C-scaled peak sound pressure level (LpCpeak). If these trigger values are exceeded despite having performed the measures mentioned, personal hearing protection must be provided and its use must be ensured, respectively. The hearing protection must be selected in such a way that a maximum admissible exposure value of 85dB(A) for the daily noise exposure level and a C-weighted peak sound pressure level of 137dB(C) are not exceeded.

These requirements regarding the implementation in practice are specified in the technical rules on the Ordinance on Occupational Safety concerning Noise and Vibration Protection (TLRV-Lärm).

Workplaces Ordinance

The Workplaces Ordinance also mentions the noise reduction obligation. It stipulates that the sound pressure level in the workplaces must be kept as low as possible according to the type of company. Furthermore, the sound pressure level in the working spaces must be reduced depending on the use and the activities to be performed there to an extent that no impairments for the health of the employees arise. For additional specification, particularly also referring to the extra-aural effects of the noise, the technical rules on the Workplaces Ordinance (ASR) are currently being developed.

Regarding the speech communication in rooms, DIN 18041 contains recommendations regarding the acoustic design.