3.2 Noise

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.

Definitions

The definitions relevant to the noise regulation are in Part 1.1:

  • noise exposure standard means -
    1. 85 dB(A)'averaged' over 8 hours [commonly referred to as LAeq.8h 85 dB(A)] ; or
    2. 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 -
    1. is inserted into the ear canal; or
    2. covers the ear canal entrance; or
    3. covers the entire ear.

Note: These regulations have remained largely unchanged. The main change from the 2007 regulations to the 2017 regulations is clarification of the trigger to audiological examinations.

Summary of the Regs:

Division 1 - Duties of designers, manufacturers and suppliers of plant

29 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.

30 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.

31 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

32 Control of exposure to noise

  1. The employer must determine an employee's exposure to noise if there is uncertainty as to whether the noise exposure standard is or may be exposed
  2. In doing this, the employer must not take into account the effect of an hearing protectors
  3. The determination:
    1. must take into account:
      1. the level of noise exposure, and
      2. duration of exposure to noise, and
      3. plant and other sources, and
      4. systems of work at the workplace, and
      5. any other relevant factors, and
    2. not take into account effect of any hearing protectors worn.
  4. If several workers are exposed to identical sources of noise and their exposure is likely to be the same, then the employer may conduct a representative determination. (OHS reps: beware of 'representative determinations'! Contact your union for advice.)

33 Record of determination

The employer must take a written record which describes the how the matters referred to above have been taken into account, and keep the record for as long as is relevant. The employer must make the record available to the HSR of the DWG and to any employee to whom it relates.

34 Control of exposure to noise

  1. The employer must ensure that no worker at the workplace is exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard
  2. If reasonably practicable, the employer must eliminate the source(s) of noise
  3. If it cannot be eliminated, then the employer must reduce exposure by following risk control measures (so far as is reasonably practicable) in the following order -
    1. substituting quieter plant or processes, or
    2. by using engineering controls or
    3. combining (a) and (b)
  4. if workers are still exposed to noise exceeding the exposure standard after the employer has complied with (2) and (3), then reducing their exposure by the use of administrative controls;
  5. if workers are still exposed to noise exceeding the exposure standard after the employer has complied with (2), (3), and (4) then reducing their exposure so that it does not exceed the standard by providing hearing protectors
  6. An employer providing hearing protection under (5) above must, when selecting them, consider -
    1. the nature of the noise; and
    2. the noise levels; and
    3. the duration of exposure to noise; and
    4. systems of work at the workplace
  7. 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.)
  8. If the employer proposes to implement a risk control referred to in (2) or (3) and it is not reasonably practicable to do so within 6 months, then the employer must make a written record that describes what's going to be done and when.
  9. (8) does not reduce or limit the employer's obligation under (1) - to ensure that workers are not exposed to noise exceeding the exposure standard
  10. The employer must make the record made under (8) accessible to the HSR and any affected employee
  11. When making a decision to implement risk control measures, the employer must consult with employees who are directly affected by the decision (as per Section 35.1 of the Act)

35 Hearing protector signs and labels

If the employer provides hearing protectors, then the employer must clearly identify by signs, labelling of plant, etc where and when hearing protectors are to be worn.

36 Review of risk control measures

  1. An employer must review, and if necessary, revise any measures implemented to control exposure to noise:
    1. 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
    2. if the report by the person conducting an audiological examination (in reg 38) identifies an employee has suffered hearing loss; or
    3. after the occurrance of any notifiable incident that involves exposure above the exposure standard; or 
    4. 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
    5. after receiving a request from an HSR
  2. the HSR request must be 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.

37 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.

38 Audiological examinations

In circumstances where two or more of a worker's 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 possible.

39 Report of audiological examination

The employer must obtain a report from the person who conducts the examination which contains the results and states whether or not the worker has suffered from hearing loss that is likely to be due to exposure to noise.

40 Test results and examination reports

  1. The employer must keep tests results or examination reports for as long as the employee is employed by the employer
  2. The employer must on request, provide aggregate results of the most recent tests to the HSR/s of the DWGs.
  3. These must not contain information that identifies, or can be used to identify, individual workers.

See also:

  • 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.
  • The DRAFT Noise Compliance Code [pdf]
  • WorkSafe Victoria's Noise topic page, Buy Quiet Guidelines 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 2017

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