5 January 2020 posted by Recovery Partners

Sound and noise are interchangable terms, sound being what we hear as a result of vibrations travelling through the air, and noise is commonly defined as unwanted sound.

When workers or other people are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace, it can place them at significant risk. The code of practice’s exposure standards are based on the measurement of decibels, which can be assessed by a sound meter (or decibel meter). Each workplace’s noise levels can be different and at times, a noise assessment may not always need measuring. This would be applicable with machinery or use of tools where the manufacturer has provided information about particular noise levels.

Noise at work regulations:

The Work Health and Safety Act (the WHS Act) introduces increased responsibilities on employers² regarding noise, and your safety system must be applied equally to contractors and your employees.

A PCBU is not only required to assess the level of noise a worker is exposed to, control the level through elimination or minimisation, but they may be required to monitor the effectiveness of their interventions through Audiometric Assessments (specialised hearing test).

Noise can either:

  • Cause gradual hearing loss over a period of time due to exposure.
  • Be so loud that it causes immediate hearing loss.

1. How you can identify noise at work

Workplace Noise is measured using a sound meter, which measures and records the level of Decibels in the surrounds. For each of these levels, there are limits of what is acceptable. Noise above 140dB²{C} or above 85dB (A) for an 8 hour continuous period require specific controls.

2. Audiometric testing

What is audiometric testing: The testing and measurement of the hearing threshold levels of each ear of a person by a pure tone air conduction threshold test. 

  • Must be conducted if noise levels are above the limits noted in part 1
  • If a worker is required to use personal protective equipment to protect the worker from the risk of hearing loss associated with any noise exceeding the standard exposure.
  • Persons conducting the business or undertaking providing the PPE as a measure of control must provide audio metric testing for the worker within 3 months of the workers commencing, and in any event
  • Regular follow-up tests must be carried out at least every two years
  • You must consult with your workers and their health and safety representatives
  • Workers should be given audiometric testing results, accompanied by a written explanation of the meaning and implications.

Maximum penalties:

  • In the case of an individual – $6000 or 
  • in the case of a body corporate – $30,000

3. How a noise assessment can help

  • Identifies the workers that have the most risk of hearing loss
  • Helps check the effectiveness of current measures of sound control.
  • Determines which noise sources and processes are causing the risk. 
  • Identify potential types of noise control procedures that would be implemented. 

Further information is available from the Managing Noise And Preventing Hearing Loss At Work Code of Practice 2011.

If your workplace exposes workers or other people to hazardous noise levels, a risk assessment should be conducted, which includes the use of a sound meter. Our safety team can provide a training session that will show you how to manage this complex arrangement and close as many exposure gaps as possible.


Our services are available nationwide. For more information about our services contact us.

Our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email enquiries@rrp.com.au

² we use this term to include PCBU’s
² Noise is measured in DECIBELS (dB)


https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/~/pdf/view/regulation/2011/674/historical2016-07-01/chap4 https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/~/pdf/view/regulation/2011/674/historical2016-07-01/chap4

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/