Noise can damage your hearing if it’s too loud. It can also put you at risk by affecting your concentration or making it hard to hear the sounds you need to hear to work safely, such as instructions or warning signals.


Noise at work can be harmful to hearing, but hearing loss is preventable if you adopt noise control measures and create an environment that protects the health of your workers.

What is hazardous noise?

Noise is measured in decibels and becomes hazardous when it exceeds workplace exposure standards. A business must ensure workers are not exposed to noise that exceeds the exposure standard. The exposure standard for noise is defined in the Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 as LAeq,8h of 85 dB(A) or an LC,peak of 140 dB(C).

As a practical indicator – if you have to talk loudly to be understood by someone about one metre away then the background noise level is likely to be greater than 85 dB(A).

The Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work: Code of practice outlines how to identify hazardous noise, your responsibilities and practical advice on how to keep workers safe.

What are the risks?

Noise can impact people in different ways and the potential for it to cause harm is not always obvious. Noise can affect workers by:

  • being too loud – causing temporary or permanent hearing loss or tinnitus
  • being distracting – low level, repeated noise can increase the risk or fatigue and cardiovascular disorders like high blood pressure and heart disease
  • making it difficult to hear the instructions, warnings and other sounds we need to keep safe.

Some common industrial chemicals and medications can cause hearing loss or worsen the effect of noise on hearing. These are called ototoxic substances. If they are absorbed into the blood stream, they may damage the cochlea in the inner ear.

There’s also evidence that-hand transmitted vibrations can worsen the effects of noise on hearing.

Work health and safety (WHS) duties

Workers and management must work together to reduce risks. A safe place of work benefits everyone.

For businesses / PCBUs [WHS Act s. 19]  or mine officers 

In addition to your usual responsibilities and duties under WHS there are specific laws that require you to protect workers exposure to hazardous noise. 

Provide a safe and healthy environment at work

As the PCBU, you must do all you can to reduce the risk of noise-related injury in the workplace. The Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work: Code of practice provides guidance on how to manage the risks by following a systematic process that involves:

  • identifying noise hazards
  • assessing the risks by carrying out noise assessments
  • considering whether the hearing of workers should be monitored through audiometric tests
  • implementing risk control measures
  • reviewing risk control measures.

Following a four-step risk management process will help your business meet its responsibilities under WHS laws. 

Maintain appropriate noise levels

You must monitor the noise levels at work and ensure that workers or people that visit your workplace are not exposed to noise levels above the exposure standard.

If you are unsure if the noise levels in your work are harmful, a noise assessment should be done to identify high risk areas and tasks by a competent person and in accordance with procedures in AS/NZS 1269.1:2005 Occupational noise management – Measurement and assessment of noise immission and exposure. Section 4.2 in the Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at work: Code of practice has more information on noise assessments, including who can do them and when they need to be done.

Note: Where shifts are longer than 8 hours, you should engage a competent person to determine the equivalent noise exposure that would occur over 8 hours.

Audiometric testing

From 31 March 2024 Regulation 58 comes into force and persons conducting a business or undertaking who provide workers with hearing protection and frequently require workers to use the hearing protection to protect them from the risk of noise induced hearing loss associated with noise exposure which exceeds the exposure standard, will be required to provide those workers with audiometric testing:

  • within 3 months of them starting work, and 
  • at least every 2 years

More frequent audiometric testing may be needed if exposures are at a high LAeq,8h, which is equal to or greater than 100 dB(A).

All testing should be done by an appropriately trained and experienced person, using procedures and equipment that comply with Part 4: Auditory assessment of AS/NZS 1269: Occupational noise management.

Testing should include:

  • an initial audiometric test carried out within three months of starting work
  • monitoring audiometric testing carried out within 24 months of the initial test for comparison of hearing abilities
  • follow up monitoring audiometric testing every two years, if no threshold shift has been detected. High risk groups may require more frequent testing.

For noise officers [WHS Mines Regulations sch. 2]

If a person at a mine is likely to be exposed to hazardous noise, then a noise officer must be appointed for the mine. This is a statutory position that is responsible for:

  • identifying plant and activities that exceed the exposure standard for noise
  • preparing noise reports
  • monitoring and reporting on the exposure of people at the mine to noise
  • implementing and reviewing measures to control noise.

Mining statutory positions and certificates

For workers

Take care of your own health and safety

As a worker, you must take reasonable care for your own health and safety and not adversely affect the health and safety of others. You must comply with reasonable instructions and cooperate with reasonable health and safety policies or procedures.

If you work in a noisy environment, take breaks in a quiet space away from noisy machinery or equipment as much as possible.

Some indicators that your hearing may be at risk include:

  • raising your voice in a noisy workplace to speak to someone about one metre away from you
  • impaired hearing at the end of the working shift that takes a few hours to return to normal
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus) during or after work.

Tell your manager, or health and safety representative (HSR) if you think that the noise levels in your work are too loud, or if you are concerned about your hearing.

Wear and correctly use personal protective equipment

You must wear and correctly use personal protective equipment if it is provided. Ask for a replacement if it is damaged, or needs to be cleaned. Report any problems with your hearing protection to your business or HSR (if you have one).

Managing the risk

There are a range of techniques you can use to eliminate or minimise noise at your work.

Step 1: Identify hazards

The first step in the risk management process is to identify all noise sources at your place of work. This involves finding things and situations which could potentially cause harm to people. Hazards generally arise from the following aspects of work and their interaction:

  • physical work environment
  • equipment, materials and substances used
  • work tasks and how they are performed
  • work design and management.

Inspecting your business

You can identify hazards by looking at your place of work and how work is carried out. Note the potential for noise to be hazardous is not always obvious. Exposure to noise is cumulative and a worker may perform a number of noisy work activities over time which, in combination, may expose the worker to hazardous noise.

Talking to your workers

Consult with workers and any health and safety representatives at each step of the risk management process. By drawing on their experience, knowledge, and ideas, you’re more likely to identify all hazards and choose effective control measures.

You must also consult your workers when planning changes or buying any potentially noisy machinery or equipment at your place of work.

Health and safety representatives must have access to relevant information such as noise exposure data and potential control options. If you have a health and safety committee, you should engage the committee in the process as well.

Reviewing available information

Read information and advice from a wide range of sources about noise hazards and risks. This should include equipment guidelines and workers’ compensation data for your organisation and industry. Check if any of your workers have made workers’ compensation claims for hearing loss and if any hearing loss or tinnitus has been found during repeat audiometric testing.

Step 2: Assess the risk

If you have identified any hazardous noise, assess the risks by carrying out a noise assessment, unless the exposures can be reduced to below the standard immediately.

A noise assessment can help identify:

  • which noise sources are causing the risk
  • who is at risk of hearing loss
  • what control measures could be used
  • how well existing controls are working.

Personal daily noise exposures can be measured by small noise exposure meters (also called dosimeters) carried on the person throughout the day. Alternatively, exposures can be estimated using individual noise levels and duration times for tasks done throughout the day. 

Once you know how many decibels the noise at your workplace is, you can use the noise ready reckoner to calculate the equivalent exposure to 85 decibels over eight hours.

If there are hazardous noise levels at your work, a noise assessment should be done to identify high risk areas and tasks by a competent person and in accordance with procedures in AS/NZS 1269.1:2005 Occupational noise management – Measurement and assessment of noise emission and exposure. Section 4.2 in the Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work: Code of practice has more information on noise assessments, including who can do them and when they need to be done.

Note: Do not use smartphone noise measurement applications for noise assessments — they’re not accurate enough for work health and safety purposes.

Noise assessments should be repeated at least every five years or whenever there is a change of plant, work processes, building structure or duration of work arrangements.

Step 3: Control risks

The Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work: Code of practice outlines effective control measures to eliminate or minimise the source of noise according to the hierarchy of risk control.


According to the hierarchy you must always aim to eliminate the hazard by:

  • ceasing to use a noisy machine,
  • changing the way work is carried out so hazardous noise is not produced

If noise can’t be eliminated, reducing noise levels at the source provides the most effective way of protecting workers' hearing.


Consider how you can minimise the risk by changing your work processes or machinery to reduce or prevent noisy work.

  • Introduce a ‘buy quiet’ purchasing and hiring policy to choose the quietest plant and machinery available. Check the noise level with the manufacturer or supplier before you buy. The Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work: Code of practice sets out a 12-point checklist you can use to make sure the data you have been given is complete. Compare noise emission data to determine the quietest plant.
  • Modify equipment or processes to reduce the noise.
  • Change the way workers do the work so that it is quieter.


Separate workers from hazardous noise:

  • build enclosures or sound-proof covers around noise sources
  • provide sound-absorbing surfaces
  • provide acoustic enclosures for operators
  • provide quiet rooms or areas for breaks
  • improve the acoustic properties of offices in noisy places of work.

Use barriers to block and direct the path of noise:

  • use an enclosure around a riveting hammer.

Place hazardous noise sources further away from workers:

  • use remote controls to operate noisy equipment from a distance
  • locate noisy compressors outside, or away from, work areas
  • have team meetings and briefings outside noisy areas
  • provide quiet areas for lunch and breaks from work.

Engineering controls

Reduce the risks through engineering controls:

  • reduce the speed of fans or other components
  • fit pneumatic silencers to compressed-air exhausts or blow nozzles
  • maintain equipment to prevent excess noise from loose parts, unbalanced components, worn bearings, and poor lubrication
  • use absorbent materials to cushion the impacts between hard objects and surfaces, for example, use rubber flaps inside a material bin to break the fall of material
  • change the force, pressure, or speed that leads to the noise.

Administrative controls

Reduce workers exposure to the hazard using administrative actions:

  • schedule noisy work when as few workers as possible are present
  • let people know in advance when and where noisy work is going to happen
  • limit the time workers spend in noisy areas by rotating tasks
  • restrict access to noisy areas
  • provide quiet areas for rest breaks
  • define zones where hearing protection is required
  • schedule regular maintenance of plant and equipment as it deteriorates with age and can become noisier
  • provide workers with information and training about:
    • the noise hazards likely to be present in the workplace and noise induced hearing loss
    • what controls are used to prevent noise induced hearing loss and how to use them
    • how to control their voice levels and noise protocols. This is important in call centres, for example where workers should not speak loudly or hold conversations near call handlers, particularly during shift changeover.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Remaining risk must be minimised with suitable PPE. Like all PPE, hearing protection is best when you use it along with other controls. To work properly, hearing protection must suit the wearer, suit the task, remain in good condition, be used correctly and be used consistently.

Personal hearing protectors should be selected and maintained in accordance with AS/NZS 1269.3 Occupational noise management – Hearing protector program. You should involve your workers in the selection process and offer a reasonable choice from a range of types.

Further guidance on the risk management process and the hierarchy of control measures is available in the How to manage work health and safety risks: Code of practice.

Step 4: Review risk controls

You should regularly review your noise processes control measures to make sure they remain effective for managing your workplace risks.

If audiometric testing shows changes in a worker's hearing levels, you should investigate any causes and whether there’s a need for corrective action.

Further guidance on the risk management process is available in the How to manage work health and safety risks: Code of practice.

Industry specific


Find out how to reduce exposure to hazardous noise in the agriculture industry.  


Find out how to reduce exposure to hazardous noise in construction workplaces. 

Call centres

Acoustic incidents happen when workers are exposed to a sudden loud noise through a headset. This can startle workers and possibly cause pain in the ear. Although it is rare, some workers can experience ongoing symptoms.

​Mining industry

Music and entertainment

Find out how to reduce exposure to hazardous noise in the music and entertainment industry.

Further information

Standards and compliance

  • Work Health and Safety Act 2020
  • Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022
  • Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulations 2022  
  • AS/NZS 2107 Acoustics: Recommended design sound levels and reverberation times for building interiors
  • AS/NZS 1269.1:2005 Occupational noise management measurement and assessment of noise immission and exposure
  • AS 1319 Safety signs for the occupational environment
  • AS/NZS 1269.4:2014 Occupational noise management – Auditory assessment
  • AS/NZS 1269.3 Occupational noise management – Hearing protector program
  • ISO 7731 Ergonomics – Danger signals for public and work areas – Auditory danger signals

Codes of practice

Templates and checklists


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