Mastering Workplace Noise Surveys: A Comprehensive Approach 

24/05/2024by admin0Read: 5 minutes

A noise survey aims to assess workplace noise levels, identify potential risks to workers’ health, and implement measures to protect employees from the adverse effects of excessive noise exposure.

Conducting a noise risk assessment becomes imperative when the potential for workers and others to encounter excessive noise levels exists. In line with Work Health and Safety Regulations, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is obliged to prevent worker exposure to noise that surpasses specified standards. These standards, outlined in Part 4.1 Noise of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, stipulate an LAeq,8h value of 85 dB(A) or an LC, peak value of 140 dB(C).

Accurate assessment of noise levels requires the use of specialised instruments like sound level meters (SLMs) or noise dose meters (NDMs). These devices are engineered to measure sound pressure levels while considering both frequency and time weighting

Noise Survey

A noise survey refers to a systematic assessment conducted in workplaces to measure and evaluate noise levels and their potential impact on workers’ health and safety. It involves the collection of data related to workplace noise, such as sound levels, frequencies, and durations, to determine whether employees may be exposed to excessive noise levels that could lead to hearing loss or other health issues.

The primary purpose of a noise survey is to identify and assess noise hazards, quantify workers’ exposure to noise, and determine whether noise control measures are necessary to reduce or eliminate risks. These surveys are conducted to comply with workplace health and safety regulations and ensure that employers take appropriate measures to protect workers from the harmful effects of excessive noise.

Noise surveys typically involve the use of specialised equipment, such as sound level meters or noise dosimeters, to measure noise levels accurately. The collected data is then analysed, and recommendations are made to control or mitigate noise hazards, which may include the use of personal protective equipment, engineering controls, or changes in work processes.

Objectives of Noise Surveys

The nature and depth of workplace occupational noise surveys and noise assessments are contingent on their intended use.

In essence, the occupational noise survey and workplace noise assessment share common overarching goals:

1) Identification of all significant noise sources and employees at risk of exposure beyond specified noise levels (noise exposure standards). This typically entails conducting a preliminary on-site assessment involving spot noise measurements, and if necessary, deploying personal noise dosimeters.

This information aids in evaluating the average noise exposure throughout the work shift (LAeq,8h) and, where relevant, peak noise levels (LCPeak).

2) Gathering insights into noise sources and work practices to inform decisions about noise reduction measures in the workplace.

3) Evaluation of the efficacy of implemented measures in reducing exposure. Once a baseline has been established through a more comprehensive noise assessment, subsequent surveys may focus on noise level measurements at select positions and under specific working or equipment loading conditions.

4) Facilitating the selection of suitable personal hearing protection devices.

5) Establishing demarcated hearing protection zones. The extent of detail and precision required hinges on the unique workplace circumstances, and when necessary, a noise contour map can be generated to provide a comprehensive overview.

It’s important to note that noise assessments should be revisited at least every five years and whenever there are alterations to plant equipment, work processes, building structures, or work schedules. Comprehensive noise assessment records must be maintained at the workplace and made accessible for worker inspection.

Importance of Noise Survey

The Code of Practice on Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work is applicable to all workplaces and work types governed by the WHS Act 2011 where there is potential for noise exposure leading to hearing loss. To adhere to WHS Act requirements, a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must identify and assess noise exposure and mitigate health and safety risks associated with hazardous noise in line with the guidelines outlined in the code of practice.

A workplace noise survey and noise exposure assessment are recommended when it becomes necessary to raise one’s voice to communicate with someone approximately one meter away. Furthermore, if the average workplace noise level is anticipated to exceed 80 dBA, conducting a noise assessment is advisable. When average noise levels are expected to reach 85 dBA or peak noise levels may reach 140 dBC, a noise assessment becomes mandatory, necessitating the immediate implementation of control measures as per WHS legislation.

To support PCBUs in fulfilling these legislative requirements, Safe Work Australia published the document “Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Australia: Overcoming Barriers to Effective Noise Control and Hearing Loss Prevention” in August.

How is the Noise Assessment Carried Out?

The initial noise survey serves as the initial step in assessing workplace noise levels. It aims to provide an overview of noise conditions, identify noisy activities, and gain insights into ongoing work processes. Following this, a comprehensive noise assessment is conducted to measure and assess the daily noise exposure of specific employee groups known as Similar Exposure Groups (SEGs).

The duration of the work shift plays a crucial role in determining how noise exposure is assessed. Longer work shifts result in less time for the ears to recover between noise exposures. Consequently, a method for adjusting noise exposure is calculated to accurately reflect daily noise exposure levels. This adjustment is vital in reporting the actual daily noise exposure experienced by employees.

Step-by-step Procedure to Conduct Noise Surveys

Conducting a workplace noise survey involves a structured approach to comprehensively assess and manage noise exposure. Here are the steps, enhanced with a business-oriented tone:

1) Strategic Planning

  1. Begin with a strategic plan outlining the objectives, scope, and desired outcomes of the noise survey.
  2. Identify the specific work areas or job roles where noise exposure is a concern, aligning your efforts with your organisation’s health and safety goals.

2) Proactive Communication

  • Initiate proactive communication with employees and relevant stakeholders, clearly articulating the purpose and duration of the upcoming noise survey.
  • Collaborate with employees and supervisors to schedule measurements in a manner that minimises disruption to daily operations.

3) Baseline Noise Measurements

  1. Conduct meticulous baseline noise measurements, combining walkthrough assessments with spot measurements to pinpoint significant noise sources.
  2. Employ cutting-edge sound level meters or dosimeters to capture precise noise data across various workstations and areas.

4) Personal Dosimetry Selection (if applicable):

For roles with variable noise exposures, provide personal noise dosimeters to employees for continuous monitoring of individual exposure levels during their shifts.

5) Data Interpretation and Analysis

  1. Rigorously analyse the collected noise data, extracting insights into average noise exposure levels over an 8-hour period (LAeq,8h) and peak noise occurrences (LCPeak) where relevant.
  2. Identify personnel at risk of exceeding noise exposure standards, enabling targeted mitigation strategies.

6) Work Practices Evaluation

  1. Scrutinise work practices and equipment usage to identify root causes of excessive noise.
  2. Assess the effectiveness of existing noise control measures and consider enhancements where needed.

7) Tailored Noise Control Recommendations

  1. Based on survey insights, craft tailored noise control recommendations aimed at reducing noise levels.
  2. Propose a mix of engineering solutions and administrative measures, aligning them with your organisational objectives.

8) Personal Hearing Protection Guidance

  1. Offer guidance on selecting appropriate personal hearing protection devices for employees facing elevated noise levels.
  2. Deliver comprehensive training on the proper use and maintenance of hearing protection equipment.

9) Designated Hearing Protection Zones

  1. Establish and clearly designate hearing protection zones in areas where heightened protection is warranted.
  2. Ensure that employees are well-informed about these zones through effective communication.

10) Thorough Documentation and Reporting

  1. Maintain meticulous records of the noise survey, encompassing measurement data, findings, and proposed actions.
  2. Produce a comprehensive noise report summarising survey outcomes, control measures, and any follow-up steps required.

11) Effective Communication and Training

  1. Articulate survey results and recommended measures to impact employees and management, fostering a culture of safety awareness.
  2. Conduct engaging training sessions to ensure that employees grasp the importance of noise exposure risks and their role in safeguarding their hearing.

12) Regular Monitoring and Compliance

  1. Schedule periodic noise assessments, typically every five years or in response to substantial workplace changes.
  2. Always prioritise adherence to Australian Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regulations and industry standards.

By diligently following these steps with a business-focused approach, organisations can proactively manage workplace noise exposure, safeguard employee well-being, and align with regulatory requirements.

Why Choose Anitech?

Anitech’s experienced occupational hygienists have worked on top projects, conducting noise surveys and noise assessments for various industries.

Our extensive experience encompasses a multitude of noise surveys conducted across diverse industries, including mining, transportation (aviation, rail, and road), manufacturing, construction, and entertainment.

Our team will not only help organisations with noise assessments and surveys, but will also offer solutions to keep high noise levels in check at workplaces.

Call us today for assistance at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – sales@anitechgroup.com.


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