When do you need to review a noise assessment?

Noise assessments aren't a one-shot process and do need to be reviewed / renewed / repeated every so often, but how often? You aren't seriously expecting the Regs to be clear on this are you and give a nice 'every year' or something though are you..? 

The Regulations, the actual law bit, simply says: ‘The risk assessment shall be reviewed regularly, and forthwith, if there is reason to suspect that the risk assessment is no longer valid; or there has been a significant change in the work to which the assessment relates’. That’s it for the actual law - review it when you think you need to.

There is more official guidance from the HSE in L108 on when noise assessments should be reviewed.

I think it is helpful to distinguish between a ‘review’, meaning checking an existing noise assessment is still valid, and ‘renew or re-do’, meaning doing a new noise assessment from scratch.

 L108, Part 2, Paragraphs 181, 182 and 183 - when a noise assessment needs to be reviewed.

L108, Part 2, Paragraphs 181, 182 and 183 - when a noise assessment needs to be reviewed.

When and how to review.

The box opposite is the HSE’s guidance on when a noise assessment should be reviewed.

The answer is that your should review it when you have reason to believe things may have changed and possibly altered peoples' exposures to noise, so for example changes to a factory layout, introduction of new machinery, changes in how long machines are used, changes in shifts, etc.

A review can be a systematic check of the existing assessment looking to make sure nothing has changed; the machines are the same, the people the same, the shifts the same, etc. and if all is good, document that this review has been done and that's it, all sorted.

Even if you had the noise assessment itself done by an external consultant you can still choose to do this review in-house - it is your business and you know if something has changed.

Document that the review was done so you can prove when it took place, who was involved and what was looked at. This needn’t be too onerous and notes or minutes will suffice.

A less frequent re-do / reassessment

To be clear, as the Regs say almost nothing on this, this is entirely a recommendation from us and we don’t want to pretend noise assessment have set expiry dates or anything.

As a recommendation for re-doing a noise assessment, for sites with a general noise risk I would recommend you re-do the assessment from scratch every three years or so. This is purely because although it may look like nothing has changed, some things inevitably will. Cutting heads may be increasingly worn and worn heads make more noise than sharp ones. Bearings may be wearing in a motor. A loose panel bolt can make a dramatic change in the noise levels. None of these will be apparent on a quick check so a policy of doing it again from scratch will act as a good fail-safe for you.

If your noise risks are particularly high or there are often changes to working practices or equipment, consider re-doing it from scratch every two years, but make that decision based on your assessment of your risks and whether you consider the noise risks to be high or not.

As a guide to this, in our noise assessments we rate sites as ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ risks. For high, I would recommend a re-do every two years, for medium or low sites I would recommend every three years. But this is only a recommendation and if you choose to go longer then that is perfectly valid.

Review / Re-assessment summary

✔︎ Have a look at it at least annually to see what, if anything has changed.

✔︎ You can do that in-house if you want to.

✔︎ Document that you did this - who was involved and when it was done.

✔︎ For large or higher risk sites (e.g. it says risk levels are ‘high’ on the noise assessment), we recommend a re-do every two years.

✔︎ For smaller or lower risk sites, (e.g. it says low or medium on the noise assessment), we recommend a re-do / re-assessment every three years or so.