Category Archives: Noise Articles

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Noise in the Workplace

Noise in the Workplace what you should know to remain compliant

Noise in the workplace is more of a risk than ever to Australian businesses. One would think that as technology advances noise levels in the workplace would decrease. But with KPI’s pushed higher and higher and machine output ever increasing are you pushing the boundary on acceptable noise levels in the workplace?

As part of the OHS/WHS Regulations employers have a duty of care to ensure that;

  • Employees are not exposed to noise which can cause risk to their health and safety.
  • If noise over the Noise Exposure Standard is present that at a bare minimum; hearing protection and signage advising of such is provided.
  • Audiometric testing of employees is provided if hearing protection is required.

What are acceptable noise levels in the workplace /noise limits in the workplace?

The Noise Exposure Standard defines the noise limits in the workplace. The acceptable noise levels in the workplace are the same in all states, the noise limits in the workplace are;

  • Noise in the workplace at or above Leaq 8hr 85dB (A) or;
  • Noise in the workplace at or above Lc Peak 140db (C).

For a detailed breakdown on Noise Regulations, see our article Workplace Noise Regulations.

Understanding the Noise Exposure Standard and acceptable noise levels in the workplace.

The first step is to understand what the acceptable noise levels in the workplace are;

The first is ‘Leaq 8hr 85dB (A)’ which is a sound pressure level equivalent to 85dB in an (A) filtered frequency range (noise in the frequencies audible to humans) over an 8hr time period. To calculate this is no easy task and requires the use of a noise exposure calculator where spot measurements and the time spent exposed to such noise are entered in and a personal exposure profile calculated.

Example: ‘Employee A’ Spends 3 hours out of the day using an angle grinder (90dB (A)), 1 hour cutting stock with a saw (75dB (A)) and 4hours in the warehouse (65dB (A));

Activity

Sound Level

Time Spent

Grinding

90dB (A)

3hr

Cutting

75dB (A)

1hr

Warehouse

65dB (A)

4hr

Calculated Leaq 8hr in dB (A) is:

83.5dB (A)

As per the above; on a normal day ‘Employee A’ is exposed to sound pressure of Leaq 8hr 83.5dB (A) which is under the Noise Exposure limit of 85dB (A).

The second part of the noise exposure standard is noise below Lc Peak 140db (C). This is a sound pressure level which occurs for any length of time when measured with a (C) frequency filter. The (C) filter is noise audible to human hearing + lower frequency noise.

Example: a large unshielded Hydraulic press; although it presses ultrafast and noise generated is audible for less than 1 second if the noise is over 140db (C) it is still in excess of the exposure standard.

In order to accurately measure your noise in the workplace a Workplace Noise Assessment is needed.

Safe Noise Levels in the workplace.

In order to maintain a safe working environment your noise should be assessed ensuring that acceptable noise levels in the workplace are present. Noise which exceeds the safe noise levels in the workplace must be controlled and actioned to ensure employees are not exposed. Exposure to such noise can cause permanent hearing damage and may cost the business severely in Workers Compensation, productivity loss and staff turnover.

Noise in the workplace should be systematically identified by means of a risk assessment and then properly assessed to calculate the actual noise levels in the workplace.

For further information on safe noise levels in the workplace see our other noise articles.

 

Noise Sound Pressure Level

Workplace Noise Measurement

Workplace Noise Measurement – The objective.

The objective of a Noise Assessment is to determine if a workplace complies with the requirement within the WHS/OHS Regulations which states that; employees must not be exposed to noise in excess of the Noise Exposure Standard.

The Noise Exposure Standard contains two parts;

  • Noise at or above Leaq 8hr 85dB (A) or;
  • Noise at or above Lc Peak 140db (C).

Leaq 8hr 85dB (A): is a sound pressure level equivalent to 85dB in an (A) filtered frequency range (noise in the frequencies audible to the human ear) over an 8 hour time period. This is in effect; an average of the amount of noise a person is exposed to in an 8 hour shift.

Lc Peak 140db (C): is a sound pressure level which occurs over any length of time when measured with (C) frequency filter. The (C) filter is sound which is audible the human ear combined with lower inaudible frequencies.

Noise testing in the workplace – How is it done?

Workplace noise measurement is an involved process which is completed in order to assess a business’s compliance with the Noise Exposure Standard.

There are two main ways to complete noise testing in the workplace; the first of which is a static noise assessment where a noise assessor will walk around with a sound level meter taking spot readings, the second is to have employees wear noise dosimeters and there is always a combinations of the two.

Each method of workplace noise measurement has its strengths and weaknesses and below we will summarise some of them;

Static Workplace Noise Measurement

This process involves having a noise measurement professional walk through the workplace and take spot measurements using a handheld sound level meter. The sound level meter must be constructed to the specifications as stipulated in the relevant Australian Standards and the assessor must be suitably qualified.

Using the spot reading results as taken during the assessment the data can then be used to calculate individual or employee group noise exposure.

Strengths of static Workplace Noise Measurement.

  • Static noise testing in the workplace is often the more cost effective option.
  • Static assessment allows the assessor to verify the data as it is being collected to ensure it is valid.
  • Static workplace noise measurement allows the calculation of employee noise exposure profiles for varying conditions and as such the data can remain valid in multiple scenarios.

Example: Let’s take two scenarios;

  1. Employee 1 works 2 hours on an angle grinder, 4 hours in the storeroom and 2 hours on the forklift in a day.
  2. Employee 1 works 2 hours on an angle grinder, 4 hours in the storeroom and 2 hours on the forklift in a day but then completes 2hrs of overtime on the grinder.

 

Time Spent Completing Tasks

Activity

Sound Level

Scenario 1

Scenario 2

Grinding

90dB (A)

2 hours

4 hours

Storeroom

70dB (A)

4 hours

4 hours

Forklift

65dB (A)

2 hours

3 hours

Calculated Leaq 8hr in dB (A) is:

81dB (A)

85.5dB (A)

 

As shown in the table above because we have the static noise readings for the activities (grinding, storeroom & forklift) we can calculate noise exposure profiles for scenarios which may occur in out of ordinary operations, overtime arrangements or rostering changes.

Weaknesses of Static Workplace Noise Measurement.

  • Should a noise assessor not be sufficiently competent or have the experience required the assessor may overlook machinery, pieces of equipment or entire activities on the day of assessment.

 

Employee Dosimeter Noise Testing in the Workplace

Dosimeter noise testing in the workplace requires individual employees to wear noise dosimeters attached to their person, usually on their shoulders or collars. The dosimeter is itself a small sound level meter which will record the noise exposure for the period of time it is worn. The dosimeters must also be constructed to the specifications of the applicable Australian Standard.

Strengths of Employee Dosimeter Noise Testing in the Workplace

  • The Dosimeters provide you with a daily noise exposure that if worn for 8hrs is extremely accurate and no further calculation is required.

Weaknesses of Employee Dosimeter Noise Testing in the Workplace

  • In most cases the use of the dosimeter by employees will have to be monitored by a noise assessor and if testing of entire shifts is required this can result in a significant expense.
  • Employees may tamper with the dosimeters by tapping on them and/or speaking/yelling into them. This can skew the results.
  • Some assessment providers may only attach the dosimeters for 2-4 hours and then multiply the results out to calculate the daily exposure. This provides an inaccurate result.
  • The data collected can only reflect what the employee was doing at the time they were wearing the dosimeter. This means the data cannot be manipulated to account for changes in shifts, changes in equipment or hours and if an item of plant or equipment was not used on the assessment day that noise cannot be calculated in.

 

Selecting your Correct Method for Noise Testing in the Workplace.

Selecting the best method for your workplaces noise measurement is not a decision to be made lightly. Discuss with your assessment provider the number of employees you have, the type of tasks they complete so that together you can select the right method.

Each workplace varies and no two noise assessments are ever the same. For more information on noise testing in the workplace or to book a noise assessment call on 1300 889 289 or contact us.

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Workplace Noise Regulations

Do you know what legislation and Australian Workplace Audiometric testing Standards apply to your business?

Please see below for information relating to Occupation Noise Law in Australia. All the information is taken directly from the Standards, Act’s and work noise regulations mentioned.

The majority of fines for breaching the requirements in the Australian Noise Standards Act’s and Regulations below are $6,000 for a natural person (Director or Owner) and $30,000 for the business per charge. A business (and it’s owners) often have multiple charges laid against them should they be found non-compliant.


The Australian Standard on Noise Management

AS/NZ 1269.1 Occupational Noise Management states;

An assessment should be carried out at least every 5 years to monitor changes in noise exposure due to various factors, eg: deterioration of equipment, changes in work procedures, introduction of new production processes and effectiveness of engineering noise controls.

An assessment of only part of the workplace shall be carried out, eg: in areas where new plant has been introduced, where work practices have changed, and in new vehicles which may have been purchased.

Executive Summary; To ensure compliance you must have your workplace noise assessed every 5 years at a minimum! If during the noise assessment, it is identified that employees in your organisation are exposed to hazardous level of noise the employer is obliged to follow the hierarchy of control to address the noise generated within its operations. Process elimination, equipment modification, retrofitting and rostering changes are all viable controls which should be explored before the issue of hearing protection. However, if Personal Protective equipment (eg: Ear muffs, Ear Plugs) are deemed to be the appropriate control then Audiometric testing aka Hearing tests apply.


Victorian Specific Law
For employers and business owners

The OHS Regulations 2017 state;

3.2.32- Determination of exposure to noise

(1) An employer must determine an employee’s exposure to noise at the workplace in accordance with this regulation if there is uncertainty (based on reasonable grounds) as to whether the noise exposure standard is or may be exceeded

(2) In considering whether a noise exposure standard is or may be exceeded, an employer must not take into account the effect of any hearing protectors the employee may be using.

(3) A determination under subregulation (1)—

  1. must take into account—must not take into account the effect of any hearing protectors the employee may be using.
    1. The level of noise to which the employee is exposed; and
    2. The duration of the exposure; and
    3. Plant and other sources of noise at the workplace; and
    4. Systems of work at the workplace; and
    5. Any other relevant factors; and
  2. must not take into account the effect of any hearing protectors the employee may be using.

Executive Summary; As an employer you must identify, assess and control the noise risk to your employees and others. Our noise assessment services will provide you with the information you need to satisfy this legislative requirement. Our services also include an ‘Action Plan’ for you to ensure legal compliance. See the details of our service and the other exclusive benefits we offer our customers on our Employer Services page.

3.2.37- Audiometric tests 

If an employer is required under regulation 34(5) to provide hearing protectors to an employee, the employer must provide for audiometric testing for that employee—

  1. within 3 months after the employee commences the work in relation to which the hearing protectors are required; and
  2. at any time when reasonably requested to do so by the health and safety representative of the designated work group of which the employee is a member; and
  3. at least every 2 years.

3.2.38- Audiological examinations

If the results of 2 or more audiometric tests of an employee under regulation 37 during a period not exceeding 2 years indicate a reduction in hearing levels equal to or greater than 15 decibels at 3000 hertz, 4000 hertz or 6000 hertz, the employer must provide for the employee to undergo an audiological examination as soon as reasonably possible.

For Manufacturers and suppliers of plant and equipment

The OHS Regulations 2017 state;

3.2.30- Manufacturers

(2) If plant, when used at a workplace for the purpose for which it is manufactured, may cause an employee’s exposure to noise to exceed the noise exposure standard, the manufacturer of the plant must—

  1. Determine its sound power level; and
  2. when supplying the plant to another person, provide with the plant a record that states the sound power level of the plant

3.2.31- Suppliers

(1) A supplier of plant must provide with the plant any record received from the person from whom the plant was acquired that states the sound power level of the plant.

(2)  A supplier of plant must take any action that is reasonably necessary in the circumstances to obtain a record that states the sound power level of the plant from the person from whom the plant was acquired.

Executive Summary; If you manufacture or supply (sell or import) plant or equipment you have a duty to provide information regarding the noise output levels of your product. We can assist you in meeting this obligation, see our Manufacturers and Suppliers Services page for more information.

Click HERE to see the full OHS Act.

Queensland Specific Law
For employers and business owners

The  Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work – Code of Practice 2011;

4.1 When should a risk assessment be conducted?

If you have identified any noisy activities that may expose your workers or other people at your workplace to hazardous noise then, unless you can reduce the exposures to below the standard immediately, you should assess the risks by carrying out a noise assessment.

A noise assessment will help you:

  •   identify which workers are at risk of hearing loss
  •   determine what noise sources and processes are causing that risk
  •   identify if and what kind of noise control measures could be implemented
  •   check the effectiveness of existing control measures.

4.2 Who can do a noise assessment?

A noise assessment should be done by a competent person in accordance with the procedures in AS/NZS 1269.1 Measurement and assessment of noise immission and exposure. The more complex the situation, the more knowledgeable and experienced the person needs to be.
A competent person is one who has accurately calibrated noise measuring instruments and, through training and experience:
    •   understands what is required by the Regulations for noise
    •   knows how to check the performance of the instruments
    •   knows how to take the measurements properly
    •   can interpret the results of the noise measurements.

5.7 Audiometric testing

The hearing of workers exposed to noise can be monitored through regular audiometric examinations. Audiometric testing is an important part of managing the risks from noise exposure at the workplace. Starting the audiometric testing before people are exposed to hazardous noise (such as new starters or those changing jobs) provides a baseline as a reference for future audiometric test results. To be effective, initial audiometric testing should be provided within three months of the worker commencing work with regular follow-up tests at least every two years. These should be undertaken well into the work shift so that any temporary hearing loss can be picked up.

More frequent audiometric testing (e.g. every six months) may be needed if exposures are at a high LAeq,8h, which is equal or greater than 100 dB(A).

Click HERE to see the full Code of Practice.


New South Wales Specific Law
For employers and business owners
The WHS Regulations 2011 state;

4.1.57  Managing risk of hearing loss from noise 

(2)  A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that the noise that a worker is exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise.

4.1.58  Managing risk of hearing loss from noise 

(1)  This clause applies in relation to a worker who is frequently required by the person conducting the business or undertaking to use personal protective equipment to protect the worker from the risk of hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise.

(2)  The person conducting the business or undertaking who provides the personal protective equipment as a control measure must provide audiometric testing for the worker:

(a)  within 3 months of the worker commencing the work, and

(b)  in any event, at least every 2 years.

Click HERE to see the full Code of Practice.


South Australia Specific Law
For employers and business owners
The WHS Regulations 2012 state;

Chapter 4 – Part 1

57 – Managing risk of hearing loss from noise 

(2)  A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that the noise that a worker is exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise.

58 – Audiometric testing

(1)  This regulation applies in relation to a worker who is frequently required by the person conducting the business or undertaking to use personal protective equipment to protect the worker from the risk of hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise.

(2)  The person conducting the business or undertaking who provides the personal protective equipment as a control measure must provide audiometric testing for the worker—

                  (a) within 3 months of the worker commencing the work; and

                  (b) in any event, at least every 2 years.

Click HERE to see the full Code of Practice.


Western Australia Specific Law
For employers and business owners
Managing Noise at Workplaces – Code of Practice 

4.4 – Noise Assessment

All workplaces where it is identified that people may be exposed to noise exceeding the exposure standard for noise should be assessed, unless the exposure to noise can be reduced below the standard immediately. Workplaces where exposure is marginally below the standard should be re-assessed whenever any changes are made that may increase exposure.

9 – Audiometric Testing

9.1  The hearing of employees exposed to noise can be monitored through regular audiometric examinations. Such testing in itself is not a preventive mechanism, and is only relevant in the context of a comprehensive noise management program. Any changes in hearing levels over time revealed by audiometry should be thoroughly investigated as to their cause(s) and the need for corrective action.

9.2  An audiometric testing program should be available to any employee likely to be regularly exposed to excessive noise.

9.3  All testing should be undertaken by appropriately trained and experienced persons, selected by management in consultation with employees and safety and health representative(s).

Click HERE to see the full Code of Practice.


Tasmania Specific Law
For employers and business owners
The WHS Regulations 2012 state;

57.   Managing risk of hearing loss from noise
(2)  A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that the noise that a worker is exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise.

58.   Audiometric testing

(1)  This regulation applies in relation to a worker who is frequently required by the person conducting the business or undertaking to use personal protective equipment to protect the worker from the risk of hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise.

(2)  The person conducting the business or undertaking who provides the personal protective equipment as a control measure must provide audiometric testing for the worker –

                (a) within 3 months of the worker commencing the work; and

                (b) in any event, at least every 2 years.

Click HERE to see the full regulations.


Northern Territory Specific Law
For employers and business owners
The WHS (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations 2017 state;

4.1.57 Managing risk of hearing loss from noise (2) A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that the noise that a worker is exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise.

 

4.1.58 Audiometric testing 

(1) This regulation applies in relation to a worker who is frequently required by the person conducting the business or undertaking to use personal protective equipment to protect the worker from the risk of hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise.

(2) The person conducting the business or undertaking who provides the personal protective equipment as a control measure must provide audiometric testing for the worker:

(a)  within 3 months of the worker commencing the work; and

(b)  in any event, at least every 2 years.

Click HERE to see the full regulations.