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.
There are steps employers can take to make workplaces quieter and safer for their employees. One of the first things they can do is conduct a noise assessment to figure out which areas of the workplace are noisiest and where noise reduction efforts would be most effective. Then, they can try different strategies like using sound-absorbing materials, scheduling noisy tasks for less busy times, or even rotating workers to limit their exposure to loud sounds.
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));
Calculated Leaq 8hr in dB (A) is:
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.