Managing noise risks

We’ve produced a series of resources to help you understand your duties around managing the risks of noise, including using the source path receiver model, providing workers with hearing protection if risk remains, and making sure your workers are trained.

What are hazards and risks? 

A hazard is anything that can cause harm (eg noisy machinery, equipment or vehicles).

When people are exposed to too much noise, there are risks to their health and safety.

  • Too much noise can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Too much noise can make people unsafe because they can’t hear what’s going on around them (eg hear when vehicles are coming.)

How can you manage noise risks at your work? 

 There are three places you can do something about noise:

  • At the source of the noise (eg at the noisy machine, equipment or vehicle)
  • Along the path (where the noise travels from the source to the worker), or
  • At the worker

We recommend you follow these steps to manage noise risks:

Here is a short video that explains what the source path receiver model is. It follows the sound to the person at the receiving end of the sound.

You can also download a poster which explains the source path receiver model to use in your workplace.

Hearing protection is the least effective control measure, and should only be considered once all options to eliminate the noise at source or minimise the exposure to noise have been exhausted. You must provide hearing protection in your work if it is needed to manage noise risks, and train your workers on how to use it correctly.

Hearing protection comes in two forms: earmuffs and earplugs.

Choosing the right hearing protection

Hearing protection has five different classes. The class of hearing protection your workers will need depends on the noise levels at your work. The higher the noise level, the higher the class of the hearing protection. It’s important that your workers wear the correct class of hearing protection, because it is designed to protect workers from specific levels of noise over specific timeframes. The figure below illustrates the hearing protection classes:

[image] Diagram showing hearing protection classes from 1 to 5.
Hearing protection classes.

What are your responsibilities regarding hearing protection?

You must:

  • Provide your workers with the correct class of hearing protection appropriate for the noise levels in your work. 
  • Make sure that your workers are correctly wearing and using the hearing protection when needed.
  • Store the hearing protection correctly so it doesn’t get damaged.
  • Make sure the hearing protection is compatible with any other personal protective equipment your workers may be required to wear. 
  • Make sure the hearing protection is a good fit for your workers. 
  • Not charge your workers for the hearing protection. 
  • Educate your workers on how to use the hearing protection safely, including storing, caring and maintaining it correctly.

What else do you need to do? 

  • Make sure that your workers are not exposed to noise levels equivalent to 85db(A) (decibels) over 8 hours, or peak noise levels of 140 db(A).
  • Talk to a competent person to check if a noise assessment is needed if you’re unsure of the noise levels at your work, or if your workers have been exposed to hazardous noise levels.
  • Use signs to identify areas where the noise risk exists and where hearing protection must be worn.
  • Warn your workers when noisy work will be happening, so they can move away or wear hearing protection.

For more information, see our guidance on hearing protection. We’ve also designed a poster for you to use in your workplace to remind your workers when hearing protection must be worn.

You must make sure that workers receive the information, training, instruction or supervision they need to protect themselves from hazardous noise. Workers must be able to understand what you are telling them.

What information do you need to provide workers?

  •  The impact on their health from hazardous noise
  • How hearing can be affected by hazardous noise
  • Responsibilities of workers, managers, supervisors and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs)
  • Dangerous tasks and the level of hazardous noise they could be exposed to
  • How to identify and report hazardous noise levels
  • How to report faulty or damaged hearing protection and noise control equipment
  • How to choose, fit, wear, maintain and store hearing protection
  • Where and when to wear hearing protection
  • How and when to use to noise control measures

Training should be tailored and fit for purpose. Think about your workers’ age, first language, whether they have any learning difficulties, any cultural differences, and their previous experience and knowledge.

For more information, see our guidance on training.

Review your noise control measures regularly

Reviewing your noise management plan regularly can help you make sure you are managing noise risk effectively. Involve your workers in this.

Ask the following questions:

  • Has a new process or equipment changed the noise levels in the workplace?
  • Do workers know about how loud noise can hurt them, and do they know how to protect themselves against hearing loss?
  • Are your workers using hearing protection when needed? Do they use it correctly? Is it comfortable? Are there any reasons workers don’t use hearing protection?
  • Do the results from worker hearing tests indicate hearing loss?
  • Get worker feedback on how well you are managing noise risk (eg directly ask them, or through Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) or Health and Safety Committee (HSC) if you have them).

Download our resources

Hearing protection (PDF 639 KB)

Training - hazardous noise (PDF 344 KB)

Managing noise risk - poster (PDF 1.6 MB)

Dangerous noise levels - poster (PDF 43 KB)