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There are a significant number of workplaces that are classified as a noisy environment and as a consequence hearing protection may be required for the workers. The most common industries that require hearing protection in the workplace due to a noisy working environment are in the manufacturing and fabrication industries.

When assessing as to whether a workplace may be considered to be noisy, we first assess the NSW state workplace health and safety legislation. Within the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 , it states that: the exposure standard for noise means:

  • LAeq,8h of 85 dB(A), or
  • LC,peak of 140 dB(C).

LAeq,8h means the eight-hour equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure level in decibels (dB(A)) and LC,peak means the C-weighted peak sound pressure level in decibels (dB(C)).

To first determine whether or not the workplace is noisy a preliminary noise survey is recommended to measure the noise levels. If noise levels above 80 dB(A) are measured, then a detailed noise survey is required.

There is evidence that exposure to hand arm vibrations can increase the effects of noise on hearing. Where there is significant HAV, it is recommended that noise levels be lowered to below 80 dB(A) for an 8 hour shift in line with the Safe Work Australia national code of practice.

Exposure to a number of common industrial chemicals can also increase the effects of noise on hearing. These substances are called ototoxic substances. Hearing loss is more likely if exposure is to a combination of substances or a combination of the substance and noise.

Not only shall the noise be below the exposure standard it states that:

  • “A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage risks to health and safety relating to hearing loss associated with noise; and
  • A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that the noise that a worker is exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise.”

If the exposure standard is exceeded in the workplace then workers must wear personal hearing protection to reduce their exposure below the standard. Personal hearing protection is not designed to block out all noise but to reduce the worker’s noise exposure to below the required standard. For a noisy working environment it is recommended that a Hearing Protection Program be implemented in the workplace in line with AS/NZS 1269.3.

If you currently work in a noisy environment or are concerned about the daily noise exposure of yourself or your employees, Safe Environment can conduct a noise assessment on the workplace to determine if it is classified as a noisy environment and if or what type of hearing protection is required for the workers.

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.