Get your earmuffs ready: new EU noise directive comes into force tomorrow

MEP attacks 'gold-plating' that could make the law excessively burdensome

Strasbourg, 5th April 2006 -- New noise regulations, which come into force tomorrow, should be treated sensibly by the British Health and Safety executive (HSE) and other public bodies who have already carried out such ludicrous actions as testing the decibel level of police dog barks and muffling the noise of ceremonial cannons when carrying out a 21-gun salute. The new regulations could also lead to a number of compensation claims being brought by workers who have suffered hearing loss and believe it can be attributed to their workplace, Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament, said today.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations stem from an EU directive on noise, which was passed in early 2003. The directive was intended to offer protection mainly to workers who experience prolonged and intense exposure to high levels of noise, but Sir Robert believes the British government has added 'gold-plating' to the directive which will lead to a culture of disproportionate testing and inspection of noise levels.

Sir Robert said:

"Clearly there are some workplaces where it is necessary to provide workers with ear protection - such as on building sites. But when police forces start testing the noise levels of their dogs, it is clearly the UK version of the law that is barking!

"I somehow doubt any other European country would have used this directive to introduce such cumbersome requirements as the UK government has done. The Prime Minister talks about a competitive economy yet his government has brought in rules that will cost employers millions of pounds.

"It is right for the government to protect people who work in genuinely noisy places, but some of the absurd tests that have been carried out before the regulation has even come into force suggests the priority is to give more work to bureaucrats than protect public health."

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