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Last updated: 21.06.2023

Noise is a health hazard and causes occupational illnesses

Noise is one of the most common causes of occupational health hazards and illnesses. Typical noise sources include machinery and devices. The intensity of sound is measured in decibels.

Noise is considered dangerous for hearing if it continuously exceeds 85 decibels (dB). Because our individual sensitivity varies, some people may suffer hearing loss at approximately 75 decibels. Smoking increases sensitivity to noise. 

In the service sector, places where workers are exposed to noise include:  

  • grocery storerooms and bottle return rooms 
  • restaurant kitchens and live music venues  
  • property maintenance and cleaning work (machines). 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the noise exposure of workers must be limited to a level that poses no risk of harm or hazard to their health and safety. 

Personal hearing protectors are required above 85 dB 

The Government Decree on the Protection of Workers from the Dangers of Noise (85/2006) sets the intervention and limit values for noise exposure. The lower and upper intervention limits are 80 and 85 decibels respectively. At the upper limit, employers must provide workers with access to personal hearing protectors and the option of medical examinations.  

If noise exceeds 87 decibels even with hearing protectors, the employer must take immediate measures to reduce exposure below the limit value. 

Daily noise exposure must also be assessed. If daily noise exposure exceeds 80 dB or peak sound pressure exceeds 135 dB (112 Pa), adequate instructions and training must be provided regarding the hazards of noise and how to prevent them. 

The workers’ representative has the right to participate in the noise measurements, and the results must be duly communicated to the workers. 

Health effects of noise 

Damage from noise exposure is manifested as temporary or permanent hearing loss. The risk of hearing loss is affected by the level of noise, length of exposure, and individual sensitivity to noise. 

Minor hearing loss may be temporary, but exposure to background noise may also cause psychological stress, irritation, insomnia, and loss of performance. Noisy environments are also more prone to accidents because warning signals may be harder to notice, for example. 

The best way to prevent the hazards of background noise is to insulate workstations against noise and design their locations carefully. 

Noise control 

Primary noise control methods include enclosing the sources of noise, preventing the spread of noise, limiting noise exposure, and mandating hearing protectors. 


Useful links 

  • Noise at work (PDF, in Finnish; Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 
  • Noise (in Finnish; Finnish Institute of Occupational Health)