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Big Ben Silenced To Protect Workers’ Hearing During Repairs

Hearbase managing director Mark Scutchings has been interviewed on air over theBig Ben decision to silence Big Ben while renovation work takes place to the clock and tower at the Houses of Parliament.

BBC Radio Kent presenter Lembit Opik interviewed Mark on Tuesday morning. This followed the decision to stop the famous clock’s “bongs” for four years to protect the hearing of workers carrying out repairs.

Big Ben’s bongs sound at 118 decibels, which Mark said meant there was a health and safety justification for silencing them while renovation takes place.

“In a working environment we have to take noise seriously when the levels are in the region of 80-85 decibels,” Mark said. He added that 118 decibels was “an awful lot louder than 85 decibels.”

“If a noise level reaches 120 decibels you can suffer immediate and irreparable damage to your hearing so this is pretty loud,” he said.

Hearing loss

“Because we take hearing protection seriously now and because employers have a legal obligation to protect the hearing of workers the amount of occupational hearing loss has markedly reduced.”

When people are exposed to noise levels higher than 85 decibels for a long period the hair cells in the inner ear are gradually destroyed, Mark said. This could lead to high frequency hearing loss.

A spokesman for the parliamentary authorities said: “The chimes are being stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding.

Serious risk

“Constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing and would prevent efficient working. People will be working on the scaffolding day-in day-out throughout the works and, while protective headgear could be provided, it is not desirable for individuals working at height to have their hearing obscured as there is concern that the ability to hear each other and any alarms could be affected.”

The final bongs until 2021 will take place at noon on Monday, August 21.  The renovation includes taking apart the clock mechanism and examining and repairing each piece, fixing cracks in the tower’s masonry and repairing the frame that holds the bells up.

Big Ben will to continue to chime on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

To hear Mark’s interview on Radio Kent click here.

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