Big Ben conservation project: HSE’s latest statement

A HSE spokesperson said on the 15th August 2017:

“In relation to yesterday’s reporting relating to the Big Ben conservation project in London, people’s health should not be made worse by the work they do and that no worker should suffer any hearing loss while working on this project. “As part of our regulatory role, HSE has liaised with both the client and the principal contractor on this major construction project in central London. “This has been one of many projects where we work with contractors in the planning stages, and we’ve noted how intricate, complex and challenging this particular exercise will be. Health and safety aside, we understand these challenges would have silenced Big Ben’s chimes for at least two years anyway. “While we were aware part of the project related to the clock, we have not been involved in discussions about how that work will be specifically carried out. “There is broad agreement that the noise risks associated with working around the clock bells are highly significant and we would expect the principal contractor to manage those risks. How it does so is a matter for those involved and their client.”

For further information about the risks associated with exposure to high levels of noise visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/demonstration.htm

Phoenix comments:

Big Ben has rung in the silence of common sense In response to ‘true patriots would voluntarily go deaf’ and ‘Churchill would be rolling in his grave’ article.

On the 30th January 1965, the bells were silenced during the funeral of statesman and former prime minister Winston Churchill as a sign of respect and indeed has been stopped many times over the past 150 years during maintenance to allow workers to repair the clock, bells and tower safely, continuing this sign of respect. The bells did not chime for a period of around nine months when the clock underwent a major overhaul in 1976. Significant conservation work was carried out between 1983 – 1985 and the bells were silenced for a time during this period. In 2007 the bells were stopped for a period of 6 weeks, whilst essential maintenance works were carried out.

Our awareness of the impact of noise and long-term hearing problems has contributed to the improvement of our working environments, but despite this progression, some 17,000[1] people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other ear conditions caused by excessive noise at work that exceeds 80 decibels. Considering the booming E flat “bong” measures 118 decibels, which is as loud as a jet plane taking off every quarter hour, it seems Big Ben has rung in the silence of common sense.

So, despite the articles about true patriots would voluntarily go deaf and Churchill would be rolling in his grave, Churchill actually rallied against noisy practices, indeed even ordering special typewriters from the US for the famous war rooms to eradicate the tapping sounds.

We think after over 150 years of ringing in the true sound of London, it deserves a rest and so do we from people who think it is a tolerable risk for our workers to have a different type of ringing in their ears.