Chapter 22.1: Occupational Noise

Chapter 22.1: Occupational Noise


The health impacts of noise hazards are well recognized with noise-induced hearing loss identified as a priority work-related disease for Australian workers. Although noise-related legislation focusing on reduction at source has existed for many years, provision of hearing protectors is still the predominant control strategy in many workplaces. This chapter discusses the concept of noise as a hazard and its effects on individuals. It provides a basic understanding of acoustics and the factors that impact on hearing loss and health together with the principles of noise measurement and control. It concludes with an examination of the role of the generalist OHS professional in the management of noise hazards.

Keywords: noise, hearing, hearing loss, tinnitus, audiometry, control

First year of publication: 2012
Current Version: 2019

Chapter 22.1: Occupational Noise

Table of contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Definitions
2. Historical context
3. Extent of the problem
4. Understanding noise
4.1 Basic acoustics
4.2 Noise and its measurement
4.3 Noise-induced hearing loss
4.4 Audiometric testing
4.5 Ototoxicity
4.6 Social and community noise
4.7 Noise ‘stress’
4.8 Acoustic shock
4.9 Impact of noise on human performance
4.6 Social and community noise
4.7 Noise ‘stress’
4.8 Acoustic shock
4.9 Impact of noise on human performance
5 Legislation and standards
6 Control of noise hazards
6.1 Elimination or minimization through safe design
6.2 Engineering controls
6.3 Administrative controls
6.4 Hearing protection
6.5 An occupational noise management program
7  Implications for OHS practice
8 Summary
Key thinkers

Beno Groothoff MHlthSc, GDipOHS, DipMechEng, FAIOH, COH, MAAS,

AssocMIEAust Managing Director, Environmental Directions Pty Ltd

Beno has over 40 years experience in the fields of occupational hygiene and health and environmental control, gained both in Europe and in Australia. In Brisbane he worked with the Environmental Protection Agency followed by 22 years with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. As Managing Director of Environmental Directions Pty Ltd, he has written and presented workshops and training courses on noise and vibration for a number of organisations including Brüel & Kjær and the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygiene (AIOH). He lectures in occupational noise and vibration management in the Post Graduate OHS Course at QUT and environmental noise control at the Natural Sciences Faculty at University of Western Sydney.

Peer Reviews

Jane Whitelaw MAppSci (Env Health), FAIOH, COH
Lecturer, Postgraduate OHS Program, University of Wollongong

Marion Burgess MSc(Acoustics), FAAS
Research Officer, Acoustics and Vibration Unit, University of NSW, Canberra

Gary Foster BSc(Chem), MSc(Acoustics), COH,
FAIOH Managing Director, Foster OHS Pty Ltd

Learning Outcomes: Physical hazards: Noise and vibration

The OHS Body of Knowledge takes a conceptual approach which enables it to be applied in different contexts and frameworks. To optimise its value for education and professional development learning outcomes have been developed for each technical chapter in the Body of Knowledge.

The learning outcomes as described give an indication of what should be the capabilities of a new graduate OHS professional in the workplace. I t is up to those developing OHS education programs, OHS professionals planning their CPD or recruiters or employers selecting or developing people for the OHS function to consider the required breadth vs. depth


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