When is a noise assessment needed

So, you may have a noise problem, but when to do a noise assessment and when not to do a noise assessment, that is the question. How do you know if you need a noise assessment without doing a noise assessment - it's enough to drive a person mad.

Those Satanic Overlords at the HSE have handily provided a nice table on this in L108, page 12 for the eternally curious. This says:

When a noise assessment is needed

So there you have it. If you are in your suspected noise area and are standing about 2m away from someone and ask them a question, can you understand their answer? If you can't and they spend more than two hours there then you should do a noise assessment. If however you can have a perfectly normal chat and they are there for say four hours then you are OK. 

There are other sources of information you could use as well:

  1. Any noise data provided by the manufacturer of the tool or equipment being used.

  2. The very lovely website which you are currently reading and its extensive list of noise levels for jobs and tools we ourselves have measured. That can give you a very good idea of whether there may be a problem or not.

  3. A cheap Type 3 noise meter can be a big help in this part as a rough and ready indication of whether it's getting a bit loud.

  4. Or even a phone app can give you a pointer, but if you do go down this route, make sure it is a good app and not one of the myriad of a bit rubbish free or sub £1.99 apps. The one I have used and would recommend is SPL Pro. It's not good enough for a noise assessment but is helpful as a general indicator if whether a proper assessment is needed.

The one thing to stress is, if you follow this process and decided that a noise assessment is not needed, then document that you went through the decision-making process, covering who was involved, how it was done and when it was done. That way when the HSE come knocking you can say 'yes my Benevolent Lord of Safety, we have checked to see if we needed a noise assessment and here is the detail'. If you say you checked but have no proof of that then they will get a steely glint behind their monocle in their one good eye and pour forth their anger upon you as you cannot prove you did the check and to them you have probably just ignored the issue.

Remember if there is no proof or record of something being done then it didn't happen. And it's always better to have done the right thing and got a result they disagree with than to be thought not to have tried at all.