Noise assessment templates

A common question which comes up by people looking to do a noise assessment is 'where can I find a blank noise risk assessment template?'. And my answer to this is not going to win me any popularity points but in a nutshell it is 'if you think you need to use a template to do a noise risk assessment then you probably shouldn't be doing a noise assessment'. See, told you it wouldn't win me any friends. But why?

Noise assessment is complicated

As much as everyone would love it to be a case of pointing a noise meter at a machine, standing there for a few minutes, looking at the dB(A) reading on the noise meter, writing that down and then moving on, it is far from that simple.

  • You need to assess people rather than equipment and people mostly move around and experience different noises through the day.
  • Your risk assessment needs to assess people as individuals - a noise risk may be fairly trivial for one person but could be substantial for someone else as they do slightly different hours, or work slightly differently (could be as simple as they stand in a different place), do they all wear hearing protection and do they wear it correctly, or they already have hearing loss and a further drop in hearing ability could have a disproportionately large impact on them. 
  • You need to be measuring dB(A) and dB(C) time weighted averages and dB(C) peak levels.
  • You need to be doing preferably octave band measurements, or at the very least HML calculations for hearing protector assessment.
  • You need to identify what is causing the peak noises within the overall noise and see if something can be done to control them.
  • You need to know your differences between Leq and Lep,d and the difference between a noise assessment and a noise map.

It sounds perhaps a little blunt but a sufficient depth of knowledge to do all these properly does not sit well with also hunting around for a blank template to complete as your noise assessment.

Templates become the goal rather than the tool

I am actually fairly anti-template in most areas of health and safety and all for the same reason - once you have a template you tend to start to assess against what is written on the template rather than what is happening in front of you. Completing the template becomes the goal. This is the same be it a fire risk assessment or a noise assessment - inevitably the assessor starts to concentrate on what the template is asking for and stops seeing what else may be happening which the template does not cover. After 25 or so years in this field I'm old and grumpy enough to think pretty much all templates are bad.

Have a 'guide' - fair enough. Some prompts of what to look at on each job like the duration of exposure, do different people do the job differently, changes to the materials being used which may be different to those being used on the day you are assessing, specific causes of the noise, can any remedial action be recommended, do people wear their hearing protection if needed and do they wear it correctly. Some hints are fine, a template which you complete as you go though, nope. Bad.