Noise exposure can cause a number of unwanted effects depending on the frequency of the noise generated, the level of exposure and the length of exposure.

WHS legislation imposes a requirement to ensure control measures are implemented where noise exceeds:

  • 8 hour equivalent of 85dB(A) or greater, or
  • peak of more than 140 dB(C)

Noise can be broken down into three different categories:

Infrasound - less than 20Hz

Infrasound is commonly generated by large unbalanced fans, traffic, and ballast adjacent railways

It has been found to give rise to the following adverse health effects:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Vision bluring
  • Chest wall vibration
  • Respiratory rhythm changes
  • Body internal organ vibration

Hearing range - 20Hz to 20 kHz

Hearing range nosie is commonly generated from construction activities, loud music, agricultural work, and machinery.

Exposure to high levels of noise in the hearing range can give rise to the following adverse health effects:

  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Permenant hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Acoustic trauma
  • Irritation and emotional changes

Ultrasound - 20 kHz and above

Ultrasound noise is commonly generated from ultrasonic welding machines, dog whistles, and the discharge of steam valves.

Exposure to noise in the ultrasound range can give rise to the following adverse health effects:

  • Impacts on the nervous system
  • Headaches

Other sources of hearing loss

Exposure to a number of common industrial chemicals and some medications can also cause hearing loss or exacerbate the effects of noise on hearing. These substances are called ototoxic substances.

Noise assessment

A noise assessment must be completed when there is uncertainty about whether or not workers are being exposed to excessive noise. Noise assessments involve measuring noise levels generated by machinery and processes, as well as the levels received at the ear of those exposed.

Where you believe there is a noise hazard present, contact the WHS unit to organise a noise assessment.

Noise assessments are completed in accordance with AS/NZS 1269.1 Measurement and assessment of noise immission and exposure and with the Code of Practice - Managing noise and preventing hearing loss in the workplace.