tinnitus and hazardous noiseHazardous noise is sound that may damage an employees hearing and cause other health effects such as stress, hypersensitivity to noise, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate.

Hazardous noise can also interfere with communication at work, which could lead to accidents and/or failure to hear warning signals.

Within manufacturing industries, such as the food and beverage industry, hazardous noise will be emanated from production processes such as bottling, packaging equipment, work activities and plant operations.

Noise can emanate from pumps, chillers, crushers, sorters and other warehouse or factory specific equipment, as well as vehicle noise.

Our Noise Officers are happy to help you understand your legal obligations as an employer.

Hazardous noise and TTS

The single greatest cause of permanent hearing loss in Australia is industrial deafness. This is caused from prolonged exposure to loud noise at work. This is also referred to as hazardous noiseNoise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

When an individual is first exposed to excessive noise they may experience ‘Temporary Threshold Shift’ (TTS) for a time after the noise exposure.

This is temporary damage to their hearing  – it will usually repair after a few days. A similar experience if often described by people after attending a music concert or similar noisy event.

It is when the hazardous noise exposure continues on a more regular basis, that it can lead to Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Noise induced hearing loss is preventable.

The challenge for employers is, that once acquired, the damage is irreversible. The severity if NIHL increases with continued hazardous noise exposure. This can have devastating consequences for the personal, career and financial futures of the injured worker AND their family.

At first, NIHL affects a person’s ability to hear higher frequency sounds.  Because normal speech does not use these high frequencies, little hearing change is noticed.

With continued exposure, hearing deteriorates and eventually the loss spreads into those lower frequencies involved in speech. Affected individuals tend to automatically compensate by getting clues from reading lips without realising it.

Significant hearing loss is often experienced before it is even noticed. The body’s reaction to noise is similar to its response when under stress. Blood pressure and heart rate can increase, and hormone and blood cholesterol levels can change.

Health effects of hazardous noise

Exposure to too much hazardous noise can have hidden consequences, such as high blood pressure, increased stomach acid content, nervousness, irritability, insomnia and tiredness which increases the likelihood of accidents, not to mention the social effects.

The health effects of noise are not immediately apparent. There is nothing visible and mostly very little pain. Hearing loss may not be the only problem.

Some people get mild and sometimes severe tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), a distressing condition which can lead to depression, despair, disturbed sleep, stress and can reduce a person’s enjoyment of life. It is incurable, and sufferers have to ‘learn to live with it’.

How is noise measured?

Noise is measured in decibels (dB).

  • An ‘A-weighting’ sometimes written as ‘dB(A)’, is used to measure time based noise equivalents, usually over eight hours. The ‘A’ weighting is intended to simulate the response of a human ear.
  • A ‘C-weighting’ or ‘dB(C)’, is known as a linear measurement, that is, not weighted, and represents the actual sound level. It is used to measure peak, impact or explosive noises such as fireworks, where an 8 hour equivalent noise level would not be appropriate.

WorkSafe requirements

WorkSafe requires all noisy workplaces to undertake a noise survey so they can identify hazardous noise and outline a risk management plan for preventing noise induced hearing loss among their workers.

For information on your legal obligations, see the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996, regulations 3.1, 3.45-3.47 and the Identification and Assessment section of the Code of practice for Managing noise at workplaces.

Contact us if you have any questions.

Our Noise Officers are happy to help you understand your legal obligations as an employer.