Acoustic fencing may have helped a manufacturing firm avoid a £16,000 fine for putting its workers' health at risk with excessive noise levels.

Burnley Magistrates' Court heard that Equestrian Surfaces Ltd had been formally warned about noise levels by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought about the prosecution, but had failed to adequately act.

The firm had even been granted two extensions to the Improvement Notice ordering a reduction in employees' daily exposure to noise. Staff were exposed, for several hours a day, to a material shredding machine that, operating at up to 98 decibels, was as loud as a chainsaw.

Despite the warning, and guidance from an HSE inspector, Equestrian Surfaces did not introduce practical measures to reduce its workers' exposure.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to comply with an Improvement Notice.

"This prosecution highlights the responsibilities that employers have to looking after their employees," HSE inspector Matthew Lea said.

"The Control of Noise at Work Regulations require employers to put measures in place to ensure that their employees can work safely, without putting their hearing at risk," he added.

One of the methods the HSE advises in reducing noise in the workplace is to use barriers and screens to block the direct path of sound.ADNFCR-3337-ID-800154972-ADNFCR