You may not need specialist skills to identify sources of hazardous noise, but you must undertake the process in consultation with your workers and their health and safety representatives. As a guide, if you need to raise your voice to communicate with someone about one meter away, the noise is likely to be hazardous to hearing.
A checklist is provided in Appendix B to help you further with this process.
INSPECT THE WORKPLACE
Regularly walking around the workplace, talking to workers and observing how things are done can help you identify noise hazards. Find out where noise is coming from and which tasks or processes produce noise. Take immediate action to control noise where this is possible, for example, fix loose panels that are vibrating and rattling during machine operation.
REVIEW AVAILABLE INFORMATION
Information regarding noise levels from the manufacturers or suppliers of plant and equipment used at the workplace should be obtained. Information and advice about hazards and risks relevant to particular industries and work activities is also available from regulators, industry associations, unions, technical specialists and safety consultants.
You should check whether any workers’ compensation claims have been made for hearing loss and if any hearing loss or tinnitus has been found during repeat audiometric testing. If a worker’s hearing has been affected and has been attributed to a particular task, then a hazard may exist that could affect other workers. Below lists common noise sources and their typical sound levels which can be used to compare whether noise in the workplace sounds as loud as or louder than 85 dB(A).
Typical sound level in dB
140 – Jet engine at 30m
130 – Rivet hammer (pain can be felt at this threshold)
120 – Rock drill
110 – Chainsaw
100 – Sheet-metal workshop
90 – Lawn-mower
85 – Front-end loader
80 – Kerbside Heavy traffic Lathe
70 – Loud conversation
60 – Normal conversation
40 – Quiet radio music
30 – Whispering
0 – Hearing threshold
What happens next?
In consultation with your workers and health and safety representatives, make a list of all noisy activities that may pose a risk to the health and safety of persons at the workplace. If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions in Appendix B, it is likely that your workers are being exposed to hazardous noise. If you are unsure about the level of exposure or how to eliminate or minimize the risks effectively, you should take the next step to assess the risks of hearing loss.