Noise is probably the most widespread and underestimated of workplace hazards. All workers exposed to high noise levels are at risk of suffering permanent noise induced hearing loss. Regulations in Victoria limit exposure to 85 decibels (A) averaged over 8 hours. Exposure to noise levels over this will lead to permanent damage.
The definitions relevant to the noise regulation are in Part 1.1:
- noise exposure standard means -
- 85 dB(A)'averaged' over 8 hours [commonly referred to as LAeq.8h 85 dB(A)] ; or
- a peak noise level of 140 dB(C) (linear)].
Exposure to noise must be measured at the worker's ear without any hearing protectors.
- hearing protector means a device that is designed for the purpose of protecting a person's hearing and that -
- is inserted into the ear canal; or
- covers the ear canal entrance; or
- covers the entire ear.
Summary of the Regs:
Division 1 - Duties of designers, manufacturers and suppliers of plant
3.2.1 Designers must take noise emission and exposure into account and design plant so that its sound power level is as low as is reasonably practicable.
3.2.2 Manufacturers must ensure that new plant is constructed so that its sound power level is as low as reasonably practicable. If the plant, when properly used, may exceed the exposure standard, then the manufacturer must determine its sound power level and provide this information when supplying the plant.
3.2.3 Suppliers (this includes importers of plant) must provide any information on the sound power of the plant received from the person from whom the plant was acquired and take all reasonable action to obtain this information from that person.
(see also Section 27 of the OHS Act)
Division 2 - Duties of employers
3.2.4 Control of exposure to noise
- The employer must ensure that no worker at the workplace is exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard, by implementing the following risk control measures (so far as is reasonably practicable)
in the following order -
- eliminate the source of the noise;
- if not practicable to eliminate the source, reduce exposure by substituting quieter plant or processes, or by using engineering controls
- if workers are still exposed to noise exceeding the exposure standard after the employer has complied with (b), then reducing their exposure by the use of administrative controls;
- if workers are still exposed to noise exceeding the exposure standard after the employer has complied with (b) & (c), then reducing their exposure so that it does not exceed the standard by providing hearing protectors
- An employer providing hearing protection under (d) above must, when selecting them, consider -
- the nature of the noise; and
- the noise levels; and
- the duration of exposure to noise; and
- systems of work at the workplace.
- If several workers are exposed to identical sources of noise and their exposure is likely to be the same, the employer may select protectors by considering the above factors in respect to one or more of those workers. (OHS reps: beware of generic selections! Contact your union for advice.)
3.2.5 Written record of risk control measures
- If the employer proposes to implement a risk control measure (as per regulation 3.2.4[a] or [b]) but it is not reasonably possible to do so within 6 months, then the employer must make a written record that describes what's going to be done and when.
- This does not reduce or limit the employer's obligation to comply with 3.2.4(1) - that is ensure that no worker at the workplace is exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard.
- An employer who makes a written record, must ensure that record is accessible to both the OHS rep and the workers of the affected DWG.
- The employer must consult (as per Section 35.1 of the Act, and Reg 2.1.5) when making the decision to implement risk control measure/s.
3.2.6 Hearing protector signs and labels
If the employer provides hearing protectors, then the employer must clearly identify by signs, labelling of machines, etc where and when hearing protectors are to be worn.
3.2.7 Determination of exposure to noise
- Where there is uncertainty (based on reasonable grounds) as to whether the noise exposure standard is or may be exceeded, then the employer MUST carry out a determination of a worker's exposure.
- In considering whether the exposure standard is or may be exceeded, the employer must not take into account the effect of any hearing protectors the employee may be using.
- A determination:
- must take into account:
- the level of the noise; and
- the duration of exposure; and
- plant and other sources of noise at the workplace; and
- systems of work; and
- any other relevant factors; and
- must NOT take into account the effect of any hearing protectors the employee may be using.
- must take into account:
- If several employees are exposed to identical sources of noise, and their exposure is likely to be the same, then the employer may determine their exposure by conducting a 'representative' determination in relation to one or more of those employees. (OHS reps: beware of generic determinations! Contact your union for advice.)
3.2.8 Record of determination
The employer must make a written record of the determination that describes the matters that have been taken account of (as per 3.2.7) and the results. The employer must keep this record for as long as it is applicable, and must make it accessible to the ohs rep of each DWG, and to any employees to which it applies.
3.2.9 Review of risk control measures
An employer must review, and if necessary, revise any measures implemented to control exposure to noise:
- before any alteration is made to plant used or systems of work that is likely to result in exposure to noise above the exposure standard; or
- an employee's audiometric report states the employee has suffered hearing loss; or
- after the occurrance of any notifiable incident that involves exposure above the exposure standard; or
- if for any other reason the risk control measures do not adequately control noise exposure to a level at or below the exposure standard; or
- after receiving a request from an OHS rep - based on a belief on 'reasonable grounds' that any of the above circumstances exist, or that the employer has failed to review the risk control measures or take into account the above circumstances in conducting the review/revision.
The regulations permit employers to carry out "representative assessments" in situations where employees are exposed to identical sources of noise and their exposure is likely to be the same.
The employer must make a written record of the assessment/s, keep the record for as long as it is applicable, and make it accessible to the OHS rep and relevant employees.
3.2.10 Acquisition of plant
Employers proposing to acquire plant must take account of the sound level power of that plant.
3.2.11 Audiometric (hearing) tests
If employer has to provide hearing protectors to control an worker's exposure to noise, then the employer must provide (and pay for) periodic audiometric testing of that worker:
- within three months after the worker begins the work for which the hearing protector is required; and
- at any time when reasonably requested by the OHS rep of the DWG; and
- in any event, at least every two years.
3.2.12 Audiological examinations
In circumstances where a worker's two consecutive audiometric tests indicate certain level of hearing loss (equal to or greater than 15dB at 3000, 4000 or 6000 Hz), then the employer must organise and pay for an audiological examination as soon as reasonably practicable.
3.2.13 Report of audiological examination
The employer must ensure that a report of such examinations are provided to each worker with the results (stating whether or not the worker has suffered from hearing loss that is likely to be due to exposure to noise)
3.2.14 Test results and examination reports
The employer must keep tests results or examination reports for as long as they are applicable, and must on request, provide aggregate results of the most recent tests to the OHS rep/s of the DWGs. These must not be in a form that identifies, or can be used to identify, individual workers.
- The full text of the regulations can be viewed and downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website - click on Victorian Law Today, then on Statutory Rules, and then on "O" to find the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations..
- Noise problems at work: Guide for assessing and fixing - interim guidance until a new Code is developed.
- WorkSafe Victoria's Noise topic page and also Your health and safety guide to Noise
- The UK's Health and Safety Executive has revamped its Noise at Work website. When the UK introduced new Noise regulations on 6 April, 2006, it produced clear and very useful information for employers, workers and worker representatives.
Last amended June 2015