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6.1 Introduction to managing noise risks

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on managing the risks to road and roadside workers of exposure to excessive noise.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent and has a significant impact on a worker’s life. Loud noise can also lead to tinnitus – a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears. Some medications and exposure to certain chemicals can make workers more susceptible to hearing damage from loud noise.

Noise is a common hazard on many road and roadside worksites. As a general rule, if people have to raise their voice (shout) to be heard in conversation, the level of noise may be too high.

6.2 Control measures for noise risks

Eliminate the source of the noise

Consider changing work processes to eliminate hazardous noise.

Minimise exposure to noise

If eliminating the source of the noise is not reasonably practicable, look at how you can minimise the level of noise your workers are exposed to.

Examples of how to minimise noise include:

  • replacing noisy plant, equipment, and vehicles with quieter plant, equipment, and vehicles
  • isolating noise from workers or workers from noise (such as installing soundproofed operating booths or noise-reducing engine covers)
  • keeping workers that do not need to be there out of the area
  • fitting silencers (such as mufflers or enclosures) on noisy plant
  • providing acoustic barriers
  • making sure plant is well maintained to reduce noise from friction, vibrating surfaces, mechanical impacts, high velocity air flow or liquid flow, and fan blades.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

You should only rely on hearing protection after you have taken all other reasonably practicable steps to minimise exposure to noise.

When providing hearing protection to your workers, make sure that:

  • it is the right fit for the worker
  • it is providing the right level of protection for the noise levels they will be exposed to. Avoid overprotection – requiring hearing protection when there is no risk or requiring hearing protection that blocks out more noise than necessary
  • workers are trained in how to correctly wear, clean, and store their hearing protection (for example, earmuffs will not provide proper protection if they are worn over hoodies)
  • any new risks are also managed. Hearing protection can restrict both a worker’s awareness of what is around them, and their ability to communicate (such as workers not being able to hear approaching mobile plant or other traffic while wearing hearing protection).
[image] illustration of ear plugs and a hard hat with attached ear muffs
Figure 5: Examples of hearing protection

6.3 Monitor noise exposure and worker hearing

Once you have taken all reasonably practicable measures to eliminate or minimise the risks from noise, check if ongoing noise exposure monitoring is needed.

Ongoing noise exposure monitoring can tell you if control measures are being effective at minimising the risk. It can also help you decide what level of hearing protection is required and help you avoid overprotection. For more information, see Section 16.0: Exposure monitoring

Consider including hearing tests in any worker health monitoring program. For more information, see Section 17.0: Health monitoring

6.4 More information on noise