Protection against noise for engine drivers and engine driver/shunters

Project No. IFA 4152


completed 12/2010


With enactment of the new German Ordinance on noise and vibration protection (LärmVibrationsArbSchV), the action values for prevention measures have been lowered by five dB(A). Hearing protection must now be made available from a daily noise exposure level of 80 dB(A) upwards, and worn from 85 dB(A) upwards. The hearing protection for engine drivers and engine driver/shunters, where it is necessary, must however not obstruct communication or the perception of acoustic signals. For this reason, the wearing of hearing protection has not been permitted in the past by the inspectorates responsible for the railway sector.
The purpose of this project was to record the actual noise exposure and to identify potentially suitable noise abatement measures.
At the same time, the results may form the basis for decisions concerning the need for and suitability of hearing protection for the activities concerned.


Dosimeter methods were to be used in order to determine the noise exposure associated with the various activities of engine drivers and engine driver/shunters. Numerous measurements had already been performed previously by BG BAHNEN (now VBG). Supplementary measurements were now to be performed jointly for the analysis and identification of discrete events. For remote-control operation, in particular, suitable methods had to be developed for observation and interpretation, since the workers are in some cases required to move around on the yard and between rolling stock. This requirement has often made it difficult for an observer to observe the worker.
Besides the activities, the acoustic signals to be perceived and the required communications were to be recorded, in order for suitable criteria to be formulated for the homologation of hearing protection.


20 working shifts of engine drivers and engine driver/shunters were observed in order for the average noise exposure to be recorded and the relevant sources of noise identified. The results of measurements taken on passenger train duty show that hazardous noise exposure does not normally occur on modern tractive units. Whistle signals at unguarded level crossings, as are often required on rural routes without good visibility, may however lead to noise exposure exceeding the upper action value of 85 dB(A).
In shunting duty, the results of measurements revealed exposures of between 80 and 90 dB(A). These values thus exceed the action values for the daily noise exposure level set out in the German Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance on Noise and Vibration (LärmVibrationsArbSchV).
As the observations made during the measurements showed, the noise to which the engine driver/shunters are exposed arises during a range of activities in which the workers are present on the tractive unit, on the other rolling stock or adjacent to the shunting units. The noise exposure is caused above all by the tractive unit's diesel engine and fan, the use of the whistle, the venting of pneumatic lines, and radio communications. Summation of the noise from the various sources gives rise to the aggregate exposure, which then causes the action values to be exceeded.
A range of indicators of possible technical and organizational noise-abatement measures were identified from the measurements and observations.

Last Update:

4 Nov 2011


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • VBG (Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft)


Type of hazard:



Prävention, Gefährdungsbeurteilung, Lärm

Description, key words:

typical occupational exposure, noise exposure level, hearing protection, engine drivers, engine driver/shunters