National Quiet Day: Silencing Big Ben

On Thursday 14th September it was National Quiet Day and according to research conducted by Quiet Day, 31% of people in the UK say they lost concentration due to bothersome noises with 11% admitting to make mistakes at work due to disruptive noises around them.[1]

Noise in the workplace can be a serious problem and not just for productivity.  If noise exceeds government standards of safety,  that stipulate noise levels must not exceed 80dp, it could lead to serious health issues, possibly causing noise induced hearing loss (commonly referred to as NIHL) that may ultimately impair an individual’s ability to work and hugely impact their personal life .

Noise in the workplace has been a hotly debated issue in the national news with the planned silencing of Big Ben during essential resoration work,  raising questions about worker safety and whether it is right to silence the 157 year old British landmark until 2021.

National Quiet Day

Research suggests being quiet is an effective way of reducing stress levels, improving creativity and heightening the senses. For this reason, National Quiet Day has been introduced, advocating the benefits of being quiet that could also be hugely affective in the workplace, possibly helping employees work to the best of their ability.

In a busy, fast paced workplace however being quiet can often be a difficult thing to achieve. Especially in a high risk environment such as construction where loud machinery is in operation workers must follow strict instructions.

Those working on the Big Ben project will need to wear hearing protection to limit their exposure to noise levels of the bell and machinery. Personal protective equipment, however, should be the last line of defence, after all efforts have been made to engineer out the exposure risk. This has shaped the debates in Parliament about whether workers can operate safely while the clocks still chime and an age-old tradition remains. .

Big Ben: Where we are now

Big Ben has been temporarily silenced and  Parliament is debating how long this will last for and whether there are any alternatives to help  resolve the issue.

To hear the bells ring for the final time, thousands of people surrounded the clock, with many expressing concern about the silencing for potentially four years.

The Prime Minister initially commented on the issue:

“Of course we want to ensure people’s safety at work but it can’t be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years.”

In light of the debates, it has been agreed the bells will still chime during national events such as Remembrance Day and Christmas Day. In the meantime, a health and safety review has been ordered by the Leader of the House of Commons, and Andrea Leadsom, appointed to investigate the risks high levels of noise can have on workers.

The Big Ben issue has highlighted how seriously NIHL is being taken and the damage that excessive noise truly can do.  Whilst complete quiet might be difficult to achieve in the workplace, at least the levels of noise can still be controlled.

[1] http://quietday.co.uk/annoying-noises

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