Managing risks

Identifying unsafe noise and managing it is a work health and safety duty for a PCBU. If you have identified unsafe noise at your workplace, you must do everything you can to reduce the risk of workers being exposed.  

You can find out about your duties in the model Code of Practice: Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work

Noise assessments 

The first step in reducing risk is to identify, assess and control hazards. 

A noise assessment can be simple if your workplace has one source of noise above 85 decibels. 

If your workplace has variable noise levels, you may need a competent person to conduct the assessment.  

The noise assessment should: 

  • identify which workers are at risk of hearing loss 

  • determine what noise sources and processes are causing risk 

  • check existing control measures are working, and 

  • identify control measures to implement. 

Managing noise risks 

The best way to control risk is to eliminate the noise completely. 

If you can’t do that, the model WHS Regulations recommends you: 

  • change equipment to reduce noise 

  • put barriers between noise sources and workers 

  • limit the time a worker spends near a noise source 

  • use longer leads, hoses and extension cords to add distance between noisy equipment and workers, and 

  • use personal protective equipment, like earmuffs or earplugs. 

Easy ways to keep noise levels low 

  • Buy the quietest plant and machinery for the job. Check the noise level with the manufacturer or supplier before you buy.  

  • Change the way you do the job. For example, glue don’t hammer, weld don’t rivet, lower don’t drop. 

  • Reduce noise levels at the source. For example, fit silencers to exhausts, turn down the volume, change fan speeds. 

  • Isolate the source of the noise. For example, use barriers, remote controls or sound-proof covers. 

  • Reduce exposure levels. For example, restrict access to noisy areas, provide quiet areas for rest breaks, or limit time spent in noisy areas by rotating tasks. 

  • Proper maintenance of equipment and tools can result in lower noise levels. 

Who is at risk of noise-related injury? 

Noise-related injuries are most common in the manufacturing and construction industries. Some examples of those most at risk are: 

  • technicians 

  • workers in trades 

  • machinery operators 

  • drivers, and 

  • labourers. 

Exposure to some chemicals, called ototoxic substances, can also result in hearing loss.  

People who work with noise and ototoxic substances are at greater risk of hearing loss. If a worker is exposed to these chemicals, the noise exposure standard is reduced from 85 decibels to 80 decibels or below. 

Work activities that combine ototoxic substances and noise include: 

  • manufacturing  

  • construction 

  • painting 

  • printing, and 

  • furniture making. 

Where to go for help 

For information and advice about hazards and risks in your industry or work activity, contact your local: 

  • regulator 

  • industry association 

  • union 

  • technical specialist 

  • health and safety consultant 

  • certified occupational hygienist