Workplace Noise Assessment
The person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that workers are not exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise. There is no scientific way to achieve this without specialist tools and knowledge. The use of a phone app is not considered a suitable tool.
Workplace Noise Assessment Overview
As part of our WHS Safety Services DRA complete a range of assessments to assist companies to comply with the exposure standard for noise. The exposure standard for noise is defined by section 56 of the Model WHS Regulations as a level determined on the A weighted scale of an 8h average of 85 dB(A). Alternately a level measured on C scale at a peak of 140 dB. A noise assessment should be carried out when workers and others may be exposed to excessive noise levels.
To assess noise levels a certified sound level meter (SLM) or noise dose meter (NDM) should be used and the operators of the meter must complete the tasks to AS/NZS 1269.1.
Aim of a Workplace Noise Assessment
The aims of the workplace noise assessments are to:
– identify whether the noise under investigation is excessive or not
– establish the noise characteristics and the daily duration of exposure
– identify all persons likely to be exposed to excessive noise
– identify all items of plant and equipment likely to cause excessive noise
– obtain information on work practices and associated noise sources
– identify what higher order controls can be put in place to reduce noise level exposure
– check the effectiveness of measures taken to reduce noise level exposure
– choose appropriate personal hearing protectors for those workers and other persons exposed to risks from excessive noise
– define designated hearing protection areas at work.
Workplace noise assessments should be repeated at least every five years or whenever there is a change of plant, work processes, building structure or duration of work arrangements. Noise assessment records should be kept at the workplace and made available for inspection by workers.
More Information on Workplace Noise Assessment
More detailed information on noise measurement and recording is available in part 1 of AS/NZS 1269: Occupational noise management. A person carrying out a noise assessment should meet the competency requirements set out in appendix A of part 1 of AS/NZS 1269. The Model Code of Practice: Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work provides additional guidance. Hazardous noise can destroy the ability to hear clearly and can also make it more difficult to hear the sounds necessary for working safely, such as instructions or warning signals.
Noise control policy
An important step in managing noise in the workplace is the development of a noise control policy, which should cover:
– goals for noise exposure and peak noise levels
– design goals for new workplaces and plant
– selection and purchase of quiet plant
– noise controls for temporary work areas and situations
– agreements with contractors for the responsibility of noise control and provision of information
– audiometric testing and availability of records
– implementing a hearing conservation program
Hearing conservation program
A hearing conservation program sets out the ways the noise policy will be achieved a demonstration of commitment would include:
– nominating a person to be responsible for overseeing the program
– carrying out preliminary noise checks to assess if problems with excessive noise exposure exists
– developing a program to replace noisy plant to reduce exposure
– choosing suitable noise control measures
– choosing, providing and maintaining adequate personal hearing protectors
– identifying hearing protection areas
– giving induction and ongoing refresher training to workers
– providing an audiometric test (hearing assessment) at the beginning of employment to establish base level hearing and during employment to determine any hearing loss
– maintaining records in an easily understood form and available for inspection by certain persons
– check that noise control measures are maintained and operating effectively
– check noise levels to ensure that hidden defects in machinery which could cause excessive noise levels are identified.
Information and training for workers
Information and training for workers should include the following points:
– What noise is and how to assess it.
– Possible health effects due to noise.
– Social effects on the person’s life, and that of family and friends, of noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
– Noise control policy and hearing conservation program.
– The noise exposures in the particular workplace and the control measures used to protect workers.
– Legal duties for controlling excessive noise in the workplace.
– Control measures used in the workplace for the protection of exposed workers.
– Specific control measures necessary for each of the exposed worker positions and the correct use, operation and maintenance of noise control equipment.
– Correct care use and maintenance of personal hearing protectors.
– Arrangements for reporting defects likely to cause excessive noise.
This training should also be provided to all staff responsible for purchasing of plant, noise control equipment and personal hearing protectors.
Consultation should be undertaken between the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and workers in the planning stage about the introduction or purchase of potentially noisy plant or changes to existing plant at the workplace. Workplace Noise Assessments are the best starting point to identify where workers are exposed or at risk of being exposed to excessive noise.