Noise - what's the problem?

How are workers harmed?

Loud machines and work tools can cause harm to workers’ hearing. Hearing loss can also result from sudden loud noises, heavy loads being dropped, or heavy hammering. These types of noises are referred to as ‘impact’ noises and if loud enough, can cause immediate, permanent damage.

If you are working within a metre of someone and you have to shout to be heard, then it’s likely that the noise level is excessive. 

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Ensure workers are not exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard.
  • Arrange for a noise assessment if workers are exposed to excessive noise (such as workers have to raise their voices to communicate over a distance of one metre) and there is uncertainty as to whether workers’ exposure may have exceeded the noise exposure standard.
  • Eliminate or minimise the source of noise. Use noise insulated equipment (such as silence compressors), enclose or isolate noisy machinery, reduce vibration, use barriers to absorb and screens to block the direct path of sound, use silencers on air exhausts, exhaust pneumatics out of the area, buy the quietest tools/machinery available.
  • Place warning signs in areas of excessive and continual noise (where workers’ exposure is likely to exceed the exposure standard).
  • Warn other workers nearby when you will be undertaking noisy work and advise them to move away or wear hearing protection.
  • Provide hearing equipment, ensure it is worn at all times, and provide workers with audiometric testing. Employers should provide a choice of different types of hearing protection appropriate to the noise level in the workplace.

 

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe. 

Find out more about getting your workers involved

Where to go for more information

Noise at work | Health and Safety Executive (HSE) UK(external link)

Noise in the workplace | WorkSafe Victoria(external link)

Noise information and resources | WorkSafe British Columbia(external link)