It’s week four of the UK Covid lockdown and while several organisations are currently in hibernation, there are many others who are continuing to operate as normally as they can, and those in key sectors who are working like troopers to keep the country going. Many businesses are beginning to plan for when things get back to normal, and many of them have asked us: “do I still need to get my instruments calibrated during the lockdown?”.
The short answer is: it depends.
What if there are still people coming into the workplace?
Although it’s probably quite far down people’s lists of priorities, it’s incredibly important to remember that health and safety legislation is still in place. Whether it’s manual handling procedures or controlling noise at work, employers are still obligated to keep their employees safe from workplace health risks.
If you’re in the fortunate position to still be operating with people in your business, the chances are that you already have a noise assessment in place, so you’re unlikely to need to carry out a new survey. But there’s also every possibility that if you’re working with a smaller team, their workload has increased, which means the noise levels may too have increased. If that’s the case, it would be a good idea to carry out a new survey, to ensure that your people are properly protected.
In order to protect people against excessive noise, the correct equipment needs to be used to measure and monitor noise levels, and that equipment needs to be accurate and reliable. In order for equipment to be considered accurate and reliable in the eyes of the law, it needs to be calibrated by a specialist team.
According to the Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005:
Using the standard verification procedures, meters and sound calibratorsHealth & Safety Executive (2005) The Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 pp.97. Available at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/pUbns/priced/l108.pdf (accessed on 16/04/20)
must be tested at least every two years and after any repair likely to affect the performance, to ensure they still meet the standards.
The verification procedures are outlined in the standards that acoustic measurement equipment is manufactured to.
It’s considered best practice to have acoustic measurement equipment calibrated annually, as it makes certain the reliability of your instruments. It also extends the warranty for your Cirrus Research instruments, so long as your equipment is sent back to our calibration lab, or that of one of our recognised service centres.
What if there’s nobody in my workplace at the moment?
Unlike a car that has to have a valid MOT certificate, even when it’s not being used, noise measurement equipment that’s out of action isn’t required by law have an up-to-date calibration certificate. Only when you come to use it for the purposes of conducting a noise survey, is there a legal requirement for it be calibrated properly under the HSE regulations.
So, if you’re not currently working but have received a reminder from us or your equipment supplier telling you that your calibration certificate is about to expire, don’t panic. Your instruments won’t fall apart; you’re not going to receive a fine.
We would advise that, wherever possible, if your instruments are due for calibration within the next couple of months, you book them in with us as soon as you can. We imagine that once the lockdown has been lifted, people will want to get back to normality as quickly as possible, so there will be a high demand in our service centre and calibration lab.
We want you to have your equipment ready to go for when things return to normal, so beating the rush that’s likely to come is a good way of ensuring you have everything you need in place to protect your people from hearing damage.
What are my legal obligations?
As mentioned above, so long as your equipment has a valid calibration certificate that covers the period in which you use it to conduct a noise survey, you’re fine and you don’t need to worry.
Budgets are tight: what should I do?
We fully understand that the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic are far beyond anything that anyone could have predicted, so you may find getting sign-off for your instruments’ calibration difficult because of financial restrictions imposed by your organisation.
But we’re doing everything we can to help you overcome the challenges you’re presented with.
What is Cirrus Research doing to help?
To help alleviate some of the financial pressures you may be facing, we’ll honour your warranty for up to three months if you’re unable to calibrate your instruments by your due date, which should provide you with some breathing room if you’re struggling to get sign-off to have your instruments calibrated now.
We’re also trying to offset the cost of cleaning and sterilising equipment when it’s returned to you, by screening all consignments with a UV sterilisation lamp, both when they arrive and before they’re shipped back to you. Our service and calibration engineers are also handling all equipment while wearing disposable gloves and using isopropyl wipes, to ensure that everything is as clean and sterile as possible.
For now, the Cirrus Research calibration lab and service centre remain open to help you meet your obligations and to keep your noise measurement instruments at peak performance. Of course, as the situation is changing almost daily, this decision is under constant review and any changes will be communicated via the normal channels.
Stay safe and look after yourselves!
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