What to avoid when buying-in noise assessments

This is aimed at those of you who have something resembling a normal life so have decided to get someone in to do your noise assessments for you. There is a boiling cauldron of noise assessment providers out there so how do you sort through them to identify the decent ones from the useless? Well, never being short of an opinion or reticent about expressing it, here are some of my own 'red flag' issues which would send me running for the hills and looking to find another supplier if I was looking to order a noise assessment.

Claiming or insinuating some form of HSE approval.

A rather suspect use of the HSE's logo. Not a company I would use.

A rather suspect use of the HSE's logo. Not a company I would use.

The HSE, or the Health and Safety Executive, are the Special Chosen Ones who enforce all things health and safety at work, (although if you are in say hospitality or retail, then it is not the HSE but your Local Authority Environmental Health chaps and chapesses, but treat them as the same for the purposes of this). I have come across websites of companies selling noise assessments which claim or imply HSE approval or some kind of HSE approval or affiliation, for example by putting the HSE's logo prominently on their website. Just to be clear, the HSE DO NOT 'approve' providers of noise assessments nor certify some form of affiliation. If a company is dodgy enough to imply any kind of formal link they're probably best not relied on for your work.

They mention a 'noise map'

If someone mentions providing you with a noise map of your workplace, then unless it is an extra thing which is in addition to the noise assessment say 'not on your nelly' and go elsewhere. Why? Put simply, the Regs want to know what noise people experience and that can only be done by identifying groups of people on a job or function basis, not by a pretty plan of the site with some numbers on it. A map can be useful as extra information but it is not a noise assessment. For example, a map takes no account of exposure durations, people working in multiple areas, etc. 

They tell you the law says the assessment expires at a set date

A classic sign they are more interested in selling you something you don't need rather than providing you with a decent value service. The law does not say noise assessments expire after a set time and have to be repeated every so often but time and again I see companies telling clients that their assessment 'expires' on some date and even writing that on the assessment itself. This is pretty much entirely just to get more of your money. There is a page going into this in more detail here.

They mention they assess to a set assessment form or template

No, no and thrice no! While some form of templated report is useful for all the introductory and background information, it is fairly safe to say no two workplaces are identical in terms of equipment, duration of use, people present, construction, etc. etc. and therefore no two noise assessments should be identical. If they are using some form of system where they add numbers to a database and it spits out a report then frankly, and in my humble opinion, that's a very shabby form of noise assessment. Noise assessments take time, especially writing a proper report, and you can't short-cut it for the sake of expediency. You may save money in the short run by someone churning out some templated report but it will be very poor value and has a good chance of being found wanting further down the line. Do it properly first time and you'll get better value for your hard-earned pound and have less chance of an insurer or the HSE turning round and telling you it's no good.

When I used to do noise assessments, a report would take a good five hours or so to write up for each day on the site actually making measurements. I have come across companies where an assessor is expected to churn three or four reports out in a day, mainly by just churning it out automatically via software, rather than doing it properly.

Omitting octave band measurements

You probably can get a noise meter, or hire some noise measuring kit, and meander your way though doing a noise assessment yourself, but one of the benefits in paying someone to do it, aside from it being a lot quicker, is that you get the noise assessment done to the best standard possible rather than muddling through it. As part of that I would always expect octave band measurements to form part of the assessment, and the results to be used in calculation of suitability of hearing protection. If a consultant won't do this and relies on the 'ok but less effective' SNR or HML methods, go elsewhere as to me that says they are not doing the best job possible.