Noise is a very common risk across many different types of worksites. One of the most common sources of loud noise is machinery and equipment.
Machinery and equipment operate at high speeds and generate a great force that can generate significant noise. In certain worksites, this noise can be at increased volumes for long periods of time. Noise poses a risk to workers as it can cause long-term and irreversible damage to their hearing. Once the risk to workers hearing is identified it should be managed by either removing or minimising the risk.
Controlling the risk
It is recommended to control noise at the source. Some examples of how you can control and reduce noise are:
- When purchasing machinery or equipment, ask the supplier for noise data. The noise levels should be relevant to where workers will actually be.
- Move noisy machinery or plant into areas where there are no workers, or few workers (eg into an outbuilding or dedicated room)
- Where noisy machinery and equipment have to remain in the working area, enclose it within a sound-insulating enclosure if possible (eg a screen or barrier).
- Where enclosure is not possible, reduce noise by other engineering means such as:
- lining guards/panels with noise dampening material
- providing acoustic screens
- lining the inside of hoppers with impact-deadening material
- fitting anti-vibration mountings
- fitting silencers to exhaust systems
- Duration of exposure can be reduced by job rotation or limiting the amount of time workers are exposed to noise
- Make sure there is proper and regular maintenance of machinery and equipment that takes account of noise.
Hearing protection should only be used when extra protection is needed after using the above noise controls. If hearing protection is required:
- make sure the hearing protection provided give enough protection – aim at least to get below 85 decibels at the ear
- select hearing protection that is suitable for the working environment – consider how comfortable and hygienic they are
- think about how they will be worn with other protective equipment (eg hard hats and eye protection)
- make sure your workers are educated about noise and trained in how and when to use the hearing protection
- make sure your workers have their hearing tested regularly
Workers should be aware of the risk that exposure to excessive noise has to their hearing. Talk about managing noise during your safety meetings and keep a record of it in the HazardCo App. Make sure workers are provided with the appropriate training in the correct use, maintenance and storage of hearing protection. A Training Register template is available on the HazardCo Hub which can be downloaded and filled out.
You can view these resources below:
Is your work too noisy?
WorkSafe NZ’s Hierarchy of controls for noise video
If you have any questions about noise in the workplace, give HazardCo a call on 0800 555 339.