Guidance on 'annoyance noise'
'Annoyance' noise is below the exposure standard and is unlikely to pose a risk to hearing. 'Annoyance' noise may interfere with communication, annoy or distract people e.g. photocopiers or telephone conversations.
If the workplace needs to control 'annoyance noise' there several things that can be done:
isolate noisy equipment e.g. placing printers/photocopiers into a separate room
use sound absorbing material e.g. carpet, wall panels, acoustic-grade dividing screens
lower the volume on the telephone
encourage employees to conduct meetings away from work area
For further information contact the OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715.
Guidance on 'excessive' noise
Exposure to excessive noise over a long period of time will damage a person’s hearing. The exposure standard states that noise “must not exceed an 8-hour noise level equivalent of 85 dB (A) or peak at more than 140 dB (C)”.
There are a number of activities and environments that may expose employees and students to excessive noise levels:
- technology rooms through the use of power tools and other workshop equipment (e.g. band saws);
- in music rooms through amplified musical equipment or within the working space of a large orchestra;
- on occasions when maintenance work creates hazardous levels of noise.
The Workplace Manager should consult with employees and Health and Safety Representatives to identify any work practice, plant / equipment or environments where noise levels may be excessive. If it is identified that noise levels may be excessive please contact the OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715 to conduct testing.
Table 1 below illustrates the length of time a person without hearing protection can be exposed before the standard is exceeded.
Table 1: Equivalent Noise Exposures LAeq,8h =85 dB(A)
Where noise levels exceed these limits the exposure must be reduced by implementing the hierarchy of controls:
- eliminate the source of the noise (e.g. do not use item of plant
- substituting quieter plant or processes
- isolate the item of plant (e.g. using barriers, mufflers or enclosures)
- engineering (e.g. by coating metal parts in plastic to reduce noise on contact)
- limit time of exposure to the noise.
If an employee is still exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard after implementing the controls above, the Workplace Manager must provide hearing protectors to reduce the exposure to a level below the noise exposure standard.
When selecting hearing protectors, consideration should be given to:
- the nature of the noise in the workplace
- noise levels in the workplace
- the duration of exposure to noise
- systems of work at the workplace
Different classes of hearing protectors offer different levels of sound attenuation as described in Table 2 below. The SLC80dB rating indicates the degree of sound level attenuation provided by each class of hearing protector.
|Less than 90||1||10 to 13|
|90 to less than 95||2||14 to 17|
|95 to less than 100||3||18 to 21|
|100 to less than 105||4||22 to 25|
|105 to less than 100||5||26 to 36|
Table 2: Recommended Class of Hearing Protector
Hearing protector signs and labels
Where hearing protection is required as a control measure, the Workplace Manager must clearly identify by signs, labelling of plant or safe work procedures, when and where the hearing protectors are to be worn.
Where hearing protection is required as a control measure, the Workplace Manager must provide audiometric testing for those employees within 3 months after the employee commences work in relation to which the hearing protection is required and every 2 years thereafter.
Where the results of two consecutive audiometric tests of an employee indicate a reduction in hearing levels equal to or greater than 15dB at 3000 Hz, 4000 Hz or 6000 Hz, the Workplace Manager must provide for the employee to undergo an audiological examination as soon as is reasonably practicable.
The Workplace Manager must request from the Audiologist conducting the examination a report that contains the results of the examination and states whether or not the employee has suffered hearing loss that is likely to be due to exposure to noise.
Audiometric Testing and Audiological Examination Reports
The Workplace Manager must retain the test results and examination report for relevant employees indefinitely.
The Department's workplaces are able to seek reimbursement for audiometric testing:
Schools are required to pay for the audiometric testing of their eligible employees
Schools may then seek reimbursement by sending a copy of the paid invoice and a tax invoice made out to:
Employee, Safety and Wellbeing Branch
Department of Education & Training
GPO Box 4367, Melbourne 3001
Legislation, guidance and Codes of Practice
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017
OHS Advisory Service on ph. 1300 074 715 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org