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Euro noise directive could cripple construction firms

A NEW European directive aimed at curbing workers' exposure to noise will financially cripple UK construction firms, industry bodies warned this week.

Tabled amendments to the European Union Physical Agents (Noise) Directive will make it illegal for ambient noise levels to exceed 87dB(A). Workers will have to wear ear protectors if noise levels exceed 83dB(A).

But the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Quarry Products Association (QPA) claim the 87dB(A) noise limit is no greater than that of a busy main road.

Exposure to noise is the second most common cause of compensation claims in the construction industry after asbestos.

The European Commission employment and social affairs committee will vote on whether to enact the amendments on 19 February.

If the new noise limits are made law, several billions of pounds of investment will be needed to make plant in the British construction, quarrying and fabricating industries compliant with the 87dB(A) limit, according to the Quarry Products Association.

It will be impossible for many firms to meet these costs, forcing them to flout the directive or go to the wall, said CBI health and safety policy advisor Sylvia Channon.

The cost of increased bureaucracy involved in logging noise emissions and providing workers with ear protectors when noise levels exceed 83dB(A) will take a major toll on small and medium size firms, Channon added.

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