Key points

  • Keep noise levels below 85dB(A) on average and 140dB at peak.
  • If possible replace machinery that creates noise above these levels.
  • If you can’t replace the machinery reduce exposure to it.
  • Wear hearing protection if noise levels are still too high.

This information sheet outlines the main hazards regarding noise on the farm and provides recommendations on how to eliminate, isolate and minimise them. WorkSafe NZ accepts these recommendations in this guide as current industry good practice. They will help you comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

Accepted Good Practice

If workers have to work in noisy environments where the eight-hour average exposure is over 85dB, or the peak noise level goes to 140 dB or over, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) need to put a noise management plan in place to keep the noise levels down. Suitable ways to manage noise are (from best to worst):

  • Eliminate (get rid of) the noise source.
  • Substitute noisy machinery with quieter machinery (‘buying quiet’).
  • Engineer controls: treat the noise at the source or in its transmission path (using sound dampeners or silencers, noise barriers and isolation).
  • Introduce noise control measures (training and education, job rotation, job redesign or designing rosters to reduce the number of workers exposed to noise).
  • Provide hearing protectors (earmuffs, earplugs).

Hearing protectors are the last control and are the last resort when higher level control measures in the above list can’t reduce noise exposure levels below legal limits. However, they may also be used as a temporary control while you investigate engineering controls.

When noise levels exceed, or are likely to exceed the legal limits, designate the area as a hearing protector area. Every person in a designated hearing protector area must wear hearing protectors.

The Law

Section 36(3)(g) of HSWA requires worker health and work conditions to be monitored to prevent injury/illness. The overarching duty of Section 36(1) requires a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to ensure the health and safety of workers so far as is reasonably practicable.

WorkSafe expects duty holders to make sure workers aren’t exposed to peak noise levels of 140 dB or over.

PCBUs must get someone to do a detailed noise assessment to find out if these noise risks are significant. The person doing the detailed assessment has to be a competent person as defined by ‘AS/NZS 1269: Occupational Noise Management’.

PCBUs won’t necessarily meet their legal responsibilities if they only provide hearing protection without taking reasonably practicable steps to reduce noise exposure to a level below the stated levels.