Latest update: 19/03/2021

Directive 2003/10/EC - noise

of 6 February 2003 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise) (Seventeenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC).


The objective of this Directive is to lay down minimum requirements for the protection of workers from risks to their health and safety arising or likely to arise from exposure to noise and in particular the risk to hearing.


The Directive defines the physical parameters that serve as risk predictors, such as peak sound pressure, daily noise exposure level and weekly noise exposure level.

It sets exposure limit values and exposure action values in respect to the daily and weekly noise exposure level as well as peak sound pressure. The exposure limit values fixed at 87 decibels shall take into account of the attenuation provided by personal protective equipment (hearing protectors) worn by the workers. The exposure action value is fixed at 80 decibels (lower value) and 85 decibels (upper value).


The employer shall assess and, if necessary, measure the levels of exposure to noise to which workers are exposed. This has to be done in accordance to the obligations laid down in the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC. Results of the risk assessment have to be recorded on a suitable medium and kept up to date on a regular basis. The risk assessment shall be furthermore updated on a regular basis, particularly if there have been significant changes which could render it out of date, or if the results of health surveillance show it to be necessary.

Carrying out the risk assessment, the employer must give particular attention to level, type and duration of exposure, exposure limit / action values, health effects spreading from particular sensitivity of the worker, interractions with other risks (ototoxic substances, vibrations), the exposure to noise beyond normal working hours under his responsibility, and noise caused by warning signals at work.

The risks arising from exposure to noise shall be eliminated or reduced to a minimum. The reduction of risks arising from exposure to noise shall be based on the general principles of prevention set out in Directive 89/391/EEC, e.g. by working methods or equipment that require less exposure to noise, instructions on the correct use of equipment, technical measures (shield, noise absorbing coverings) or organisational measures in order to reduce duration and intensity of exposure.

If risk can not banned by other means, the employer has to provide properly fitting personal protective equipment (hearing protectors), in accordance to Directive 89/656/EEC

The exposure limit values must not be exceeded. If they are exceeded, the employer has to take adequate measures immediately in order to reduce the exposure. 

The employer shall ensure that workers who are exposed to risks from noise at work and/or their representatives receive any necessary information and training relating to the outcome of the risk assessment provided for in Article 4 of the Directive.

Member States must adopt provisions to ensure the appropriate health surveillance of the workers (preservation of the hearing function). 

Read the full text of the consolidated version of the Directive (including later amendments)

Read the full text of the original Directive

National laws implementing this directive

Further information on this topic

For the assessment of the exposure to noise, the Directive recommends the application of objective measuring methods and references to ISO 1999:1990 standard.

See also further document of the European Commission on that topic:

Evaluation of the Practical Implementation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Directives in EU Member States - Directive on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise) (2017)