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Personal safety in the workplace emerges from your management!

Reducing the health effects associated with noise in the workplace can have a life changing impact on your teams lives.

In this guide we cover the risk management requirements associated with the control of noise in the workplace, including:

  • the identification of noise sources,
  • assessment of noise levels,
  • reduction measures,
  • noise monitoring and hearing protection.

Why? Our objective is to ensure that noise levels to which personnel are exposed at all areas of the workplace are kept at levels so as not to produce any adverse health effects.

fep-heroSome definitions before we get started:

Excessive Noise                 

A noise which exceeds the exposure noise standard – that is:

  • the 8 hour equivalent continuous sound pressure level of 85 dB(A) measured in A-weighted decibels referenced to 20 micro Pascals at an employee’s ear position; or
  • the C-weighted peak hold sound pressure level reading of 140 dB(C) measured in A-weighted decibels referenced to 20 micro Pascals at an employee’s ear position.

Decibel (dB)

The unit used to indicate the relative magnitude of sound pressure level and other acoustic quantities.


A standardised frequency response used in sound measuring instruments. It corresponds approximately to the human ear response at low sound levels. Sound pressure levels measured using this response, which is specified in Australian Standard AS 1269 are expressed in units of dB(A).


A standardised frequency response used in sound measuring instruments. It corresponds approximately to the human ear response at high sound levels. Sound pressure levels measured using this response, which is specified in Australian Standard AS 1269, are expressed in units of dB(C).


Ringing or other noises in the head or ears which can be caused by exposure to excessive noise. Tinnitus can become permanent and when severe may disrupt sleep, reduce concentration and lead to irritability and depression. Tinnitus may lead to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity. It can also affect general job satisfaction and contribute to adverse health effects, such as, stress.

Save time and money by planning first!

During the design phase of new development projects, design reviews should be carried out to ensure that noise levels are kept at the minimum practicable level. Its far cheaper to make changes on paper than once you have started to build...

Similar reviews should be carried out for plant modifications.

Good reviews should follow the hazard and risk management process, in accordance with your process.

How do we know if the noise level is too loud?

An assessment of the noise level must be carried out in any workplace location where noise levels are considered excessive.

The assessment takes into account:

  • plant and other sources of noise at the workplace;
  • systems of work; and
  • any other relevant factors.

The assessment does not take into account any hearing protection used by workers.

If required, continuous monitoring by means of personal noise dosimetry must be initiated.

Noise measurement and monitoring must be carried out on the initial assumption that personnel who may be exposed to the noise are not using protective equipment.

Where required by legislation, noise measurement must be carried out using the C-weighted peak sound level, and not the unweighted (linear) method.

Noise assessments must be reviewed and, if required, revised, if:

  • there are circumstances that indicate the results of the assessment are no longer applicable; or
  • at any time, if reasonable requests to do so are made by the relevant Workplace Representative; or
  • at least every five years.

What do we do if the noise is too loud?

Where excessive noise levels have been detected, noise reduction measures must be implemented.

If the total elimination of the source of noise is impossible or impractical, the selection of control measures, to manage the impact of the noise, must follow the hierarchy of controls order of options, as follows: (Remember the higher up the hierarchy, the more effective and the more reliable your control is)

  • Elimination of the source of noise;
  • Substitution (i.e. quieter plant or processes);
  • Engineering controls;
  • Administrative controls;
  • Personal Protective Equipment 

Control measures to manage and reduce excessive noise must be implemented, even in situations where Personal Protective Equipment is used, as failure to do so may constitute a breach of legislative requirements.

More on Engineering Controls

Engineering control measures can be applied to the source of the noise. These measures include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Engineering modifications to the equipment which reduce the noise generated. (Targeting the emission source)
  • Hoods, silencers, mufflers and other noise reduction devices

Noise reduction equipment must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Inspection and maintenance records also need to be kept.

Administrative Controls

If engineering controls are impossible or impractical, administrative controls must be utilised. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Removing personnel from the source of noise (i.e. eliminating the need for personnel to be exposed to excessive levels)
  • Reducing the time personnel may be exposed to the hazards (e.g. breaks, rotation, etc).

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Where the reduction of noise levels by engineering or administrative methods is impracticable, the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment must be used. This may include PPE such as hearing protection or earplugs, etc. There are many issues associated with the correct specification of hearing protection and this should be done by a suitably qualified WHS professional. 

Training, Consultation and Information

The process of assessment, implementation of control measures, keeping of records and review of control measures, must be carried out in consultation with the relevant workplace representative and the affected employees.

The information and training provided to personnel must cover, as required, the following topics:

  • what is noise and what is excessive noise;
  • the effects of noise on hearing;
  • the social handicaps of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus;
  • the statutory responsibilities of employers, employees and self-employed persons;
  • an overview of the workplace noise control policy and program of action;
  • the nature and location of noise hazards in the workplace associated with the technology, plant and/or work practices employees use in the course of their jobs;
  • the nature of the general noise control measures which are in use or are planned;
  • the specific control measures which are necessary in relation to each employee's own job (including instruction in the correct use and maintenance of exhaust silencers, enclosures and other measures which minimise noise levels, as appropriate)
  • when and how to use personal hearing protectors provided, including selection, fitting, proper care and maintenance;
  • the arrangements for reporting defects in plant or the workplace which are likely to cause exposure to excessive noise;
  • the purpose and nature of audiometric testing
  • the sources of exposure to noise in their particular workplace;
  • the noise control policy, program of action and timetable for future improvements;
  • the arrangements for reporting defects likely to cause excessive noise;
  • availability and accessibility of hearing testing.

For further details please contact our WHS Professionals who can assist.

General advice warning

The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions.