Health And Safety Duties In Relation To Noise
The exposure standard for noise is defined in the WHS Regulations as an LAeq,8h of 85 dB(A) or an LC, the peak of 140 dB(C). There are two parts to the exposure standard for noise because noise can either cause gradual hearing loss over a period of time or be so loud that it causes immediate hearing loss. A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty under the WHS Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.
A person conducting a business or undertaking has more specific obligations under the WHS Regulations to manage the risks of hearing loss associated with noise at the workplace, including:
- ensuring that the noise a worker is exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise
- providing audiometric testing to a worker who is frequently required to use personal hearing protectors to protect the worker from hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard.
Designers, Manufacturers, Suppliers, Importers, And Installers
Designers, manufacturers, suppliers, importers, and installers of plants or structures that could be used for work must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant or structure is without risks to health and safety. Designers and manufacturers of the plant must ensure the plant is designed and manufactured so that its noise emission is as low as reasonably practicable.
Designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and importers must also provide information about the noise emission values of the plant and any conditions necessary for minimizing the risk of hearing loss and other harm.
Officers, such as company directors, have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the business or undertaking complies with the WHS Act and Regulations. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that the business or undertaking has and uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimize risks that arise from noise.
Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with any reasonable instruction and cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to health and safety at the workplace. For example, if personal hearing protectors are provided by the person conducting the business or undertaking, the worker must use them in accordance with the information, instruction, and training provided for their use.
The Meaning Of Key Terms Used In Noise
Decibel (dB) is the unit used to measure the sound pressure level (SPL) or loudness of a sound. The decibel scale is a logarithmic scale that expresses the ratio of two values of a physical quantity, such as power or intensity. The dB scale is named after Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.
The decibel scale is a logarithmic scale because the human ear perceives the sound as an intensity level that is proportional to the logarithm of the sound pressure level. The ear hears a 100 dB sound as being twice as loud as a 90 dB sound, and a 10 dB increase in sound pressure level is perceived as a doubling of loudness.
The exposure standard for noise is defined in the WHS Regulations as an LAeq,8h of 85 dB(A) or an LC, the peak of 140 dB(C). There are two parts to the exposure standard for noise because noise can either cause gradual hearing loss over a period of time or be so loud that it causes immediate hearing loss.
LAeq,8h means the eight-hour equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure level in decibels, referenced to 20 micro pascals, determined in accordance with AS/NZS 1269.1. This is related to the total amount of noise energy a person is exposed to in the course of their working day. It takes account of both the noise level and the length of time the person is exposed to it. An unacceptable risk of hearing loss occurs at LAeq,8h values above 85 dB(A)
LC, peak means the C-weighted peak sound pressure level in decibels, referenced to 20 micro pascals, determined in accordance with AS/NZS 1269.1. It usually relates to loud, sudden noises such as a gunshot or hammering. LC, peak values above 140 dB(C) can cause immediate damage to hearing.
Hazardous noise in relation to hearing loss means noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise in the workplace.
Risk control means taking action to first eliminate health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and if that is not possible, minimizing the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Eliminating a hazard will also eliminate any risks associated with that hazard.