Noise is one of the major nuisances to which workers are exposed in France as in many other countries around the world.
On the one hand, beyond certain values of sound pressure level (considered as equivalent continuous level, or as peak level) noise can generate irreversible hearing trauma.
On the other hand, even for exposure values below regulatory limits, noise generates fatigue, stress, difficulty for concentrating, difficulty in verbal communication between colleagues at work (in person or by telephone) and is often a major factor in the degradation of working conditions, as shown by all ergonomic studies on this subject.
In some industrial sectors, noise generates other risks to the physical safety of workers (can hide warning messages, the approach of vehicles, etc...) and can also affect the functioning of some production lines (e.g. can hide processes alarms and prevent certain interventions yet required).
In the tertiary sector, the noise is a source of discomfort for the occupants of open-plan offices, call centers, etc ... (each one wanting to be heard, has to speak out and thus contributes to the rise in ambient noise levels, often favored by a poor acoustic quality of buildings - including places where privacy should be put in or other places where quietness is required to perform tasks requiring attention or degree of thinking above average).
In many workplaces, the noise of some equipments (ventilation, air conditioning, etc ...) are superimposed on the noise of the machines (respectively : of discussions) and participates in obtaining unsatisfactory sound environment.
In all cases, given the time spent there by workers, workplaces largely influence their global noise exposition, often too important.
The noise exposure of workers is increasing in France according to DARES (Direction for Research, Studies and Statistics Management) (April 2012 the 24th)
The noise exposure of workers is increasing in France : this is indicated by the results of the latest survey SUMER (Medical Surveillance of Exposures to Professionals Risk), performed in 2009-2010 by 2400 occupational physicians dealing with 48,000 employees in private sector, public hospitals and in a part of the state civil services and of local authorities, representing nearly 22 million employees.
According to this study related to the evolution of occupational hazards in the private sector (published 16 March 2012), "the proportion of workers exposed to noise above 85 dB (A), exposure times all together, has increased from 13% in 1994 to 18% in 2003 and then rising 20% in 2010. This increase affects all occupational groups but is particularly pronounced for workers. It is possible that this trend is partly a consequence of better noise tracking through measurement campaigns. During 2006, lowering the regulatory threshold of 80 dB (A) - threshold above which workers must be under a strengthened surveillance - may have increased the number of employees especially followed by occupational physicians because of their noise exposure. The ratio of employees heavily exposed to noise (above 85 dB during 20 hours or more per week) remained stable at around 6% since 1994, but the proportion of workers heavily exposed to noise and for which no hearing protection is available is reduced from 2% in 1994 to 1% in 2010. "
Thus, much remains to be done in the field of fight against noise at work.