Noise is an increasing feature of modern life. It comes from our neighbours, from traffic, industrial activity and a host of other sources.

Noise can be intrusive, annoying and damaging for our health and well-being. But it isn’t something we simply have to put up with because there are numerous laws and regulations that seek to limit the extent of noise and the harm it can cause. As responsible employers, business owners and managers, it’s our responsibility to ensure that employees and others are protected from the adverse effects of noise.

Why an Environmental Noise Assessment is Necessary

Excessive and prolonged noise can be extremely damaging to the health of those exposed to it. One estimate states that up to 32% of the workforce in Australia is exposed to loud noise at work, with noise-related injuries being most common in the construction and manufacturing industries. Exposure to loud noises, especially for long periods, can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. This is preventable if the correct action is taken but may not be reversible once the damage occurs.

Workplace health and safety regulations in New South Wales have two measures that limit the extent of noise to which a worker can be exposed. These are:

  • no more than 85 decibels over the course of an eight-hour shift, the actual maximum level depending on the level of noise and the period of exposure, and
  • a maximum peak level of 140 decibels, which can instantly damage hearing; such levels generally result from explosions or similar events.

The aim is to eliminate or minimise the risks from workplace noise. Ideally, noise levels below 50 decibels are recommended where high levels of concentration are required or 70 decibels for routine and fast-paced tasks.

Failing to adhere to workplace health and safety regulations will leave your business liable to prosecution and penalties. It will also mean a worker’s legal action for hearing damage is more likely to succeed.

An environmental noise assessment will also be necessary if developments are planned and should be undertaken at the design stage. It is often a condition for a planning application to prove that an industrial development won’t cause excessive noise for workers and neighbours, and for residential development to demonstrate that people living there won’t be adversely affected by external noise such as traffic and other noise activities. Complaints from neighbours and others may also necessitate a noise assessment being carried out for an existing property.

Needs and Benefits of an Environmental Noise Assessment

If you’re unsure whether an environmental noise assessment is necessary, a quick and simple test is to check whether someone standing about one metre away from you can hear you when speaking normally. If not, noise levels are likely to be above stated limits, and a noise assessment is needed.

If you have any doubts, an environmental noise assessment is a must because, even as a preliminary survey, it will determine if there is a need. It will make you aware of any noise issues that need to be dealt with, will protect you from legal action, ensure that planning applications are more likely to be passed and will establish you like a good neighbour who cares about the environment.

At Koikas Acoustics, we can establish the need for and carry out a noise assessment. We’ll determine what corrective action may be needed and ensure you comply fully with legislation and adhere to planning requirements. In effect, we’ll make projects more likely to succeed, prevent unnecessary business interruptions, ensure you comply with current and future legislation and establish you as a good employer who does the right thing.

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