Noise - what's the problem?

Noise at work can be harmful to hearing, but hearing loss is preventable if you adopt noise control measures, and create an environment that protects the health of your workers.

The health of your workers is just as important as the health of your business. As a business owner, you have a duty to prevent harm to your workers’ health. One way that workers can be harmed at work is through exposure to noise.

What is harmful noise? 

This short video looks at what harmful noise is and how this can affect people. It is a quick look and doesn’t use technical language. The video is helpful for toolbox or tailgate sessions or people can play it on their phones.

Five reasons why you should make managing noise a priority at your work: 

Creating an environment that promotes good auditory health in the workplace is more effective if workers are involved with developing and carrying out solutions. Workers can help to identify risks arising from noise related hazards, and suggest practical ways to eliminate or reduce these risks. This will encourage worker commitment to good hearing health.

By adopting noise control measures, and educating and training workers on the importance of wearing hearing protection when exposed to loud noise, good hearing health will become a part of your workplace culture.

A worker's health can affect their ability to work safely and productively. Hearing loss has health impacts including reduced productivity, feelings of isolation and exclusion, stress and fatigue. Workers with good health are likely to have higher levels of productivity, are more engaged, and are able to keep working for longer, contributing to the success of your business. 

If workers are exposed to hazardous noise over a long period of time, the hairs or nerve cells in the inner ear become damaged, and eventually stop responding to sound. This is called noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Hearing damage can also occur from a sudden loud noise, extended exposure to vibrations from noisy machinery or ototoxic chemicals (chemicals that damage your hearing) found in substances such as paints, thinners, and glues.

Exposure to hazardous noise levels can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, or tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). Damaged hearing reduces a person’s ability to hear high frequency sounds, and some common consonant sounds such as t, k, s, sh and p. This type of damage can’t ever be repaired. 

Toolbox training kit for PCBUs 

This is a booklet which can be printed or viewed on screen. It contains activities to support learning about understanding noise and noise induced hearing loss. The activities are supported by the videos and guidance on the website.

Within the document there is information for the person taking the session (trainer) and also suggestions for shared discussions and activities. The booklet follows a sequence of learning which starts by finding out what people already know and then bringing in other ideas and finally viewing them within different situations (transferring knowledge).

Download our resources

Noise: an introduction (PDF 361 KB)

Supporting good hearing health at work - PCBU version (PDF 1.6 MB)