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It is understood that there was a concern about the noise created by a subcontractor on a Sydney construction site due to the noise exposure that they are creating for themselves whilst working. There were also concerns for other subcontractors in close proximity to the noise within the Sydney construction site . The principle at the construction site required some noise level to undertake an assessment of how this might affect other subcontractors to potential noise exposure.

Australian Standard for Noise Assessments at NSW Construction Sites

A preliminary noise survey was undertaken at the Sydney construction site in line with AS/NZS 1269.1:2005 Occupational noise management – Measurement and assessment of noise emission and exposure. The workers at the construction site, based in Sydney, had dosimeters on them to make an assessment of the total overall daily exposure to noise.

The work on the construction site was that of an existing building being renovated and extended with more storeys being added. The construction site workers were responsible for the construction of the steel framework for the building extension and the subcontractors are responsible for the construction for base of concrete slab.

Noise Sources at the Sydney Construction Site

The main noisy processes at the construction site undertaken include grinding, welding, cutting with grinder, tightening of bolts with rattle gun and the use of a variety of hand tools. It was noted that there was a considerable amount of noise that was noted from other subcontractors as well.

Assessment of the Construction Site Noise Exposed Group

It was identified that there were approximately 8 people potentially exposed to a noisy environment for this noise assessment, in which there initially appears to be four separate Similar Exposure Groups (SEGs), which include:

  • Riggers
  • Boilermakers
  • The Foreman / Supervisor

At the Sydney construction site, the Riggers construct the steel framework primarily utilising hand tool and the rattle gun. The Boilermakers secure the steel framework primarily involving welding, grinding and cutting with grinder. During this assessment it is understood that all SEGs were undertaking the tasks that Boilermakers undertake. Further assessment is require to assess the noise exposure of the normal tasks that the Riggers undertake.

Assessment of the Exposure Standard for Noise

The working day at the construction site was a normal 8 hour day from Monday to Friday, generally from 7 am to 3:30 pm, therefore there is no adjustment to the exposure standard to extended times. Discussions with staff indicate that the noise levels and work being carried out was representative of an average noise generating day.

There were however hand-arm vibration exposure as well as potential exposure to ototoxic agents from welding fume which is recommended to be assessed. This then reduces the exposure standard for noise from 85  LAeq,8hr to 80 as recommended by the national code of practice.

Assessment of the Nosie Levels at the Construction Site

The noise levels for the construction workers fabricating the steel work had noise exposures between 89 and 93 dB(A). There were a significant number of Lc peak noise levels greater than 140 which indicate that class 5 hearing protection is required when the Boilermaker activities are undertaken.

Earphones are not hearing protectors

It was observed that there were a number of workers at the Sydney construction site who were wearing earphones to listen to music while they worked. It is recommended that the music ear phones at construction sites and all noisy areas be prohibited onsite as these do not protect workers from noise, and generally increase noise exposure by the earphones being turned up higher than the background noise.

If you have concerns about noise and require an occupational risk assessment contact Safe Environments, based in Sydney and Melbourne.

Author: Carl Strautins

Carl Strautins


Carl Strautins is a managing director of Safe Environments Pty Ltd a multi-specialist consultancy operating in the building, construction and property management industries. He provides the necessary guidance and risk minimisation strategies required by architects, construction companies and facility managers to ensure they mitigated their risk to property risk. He is engaged on a regular basis to provide expert opinion for disputes and legal proceedings. Click here to know more about him.