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Statistics released by SafeWork NSW show that 10,352 workers suffered noise related injuries between 2012-15 in NSW, with 90% permanently disabled. Excessive exposure to noise can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss, with many victims experiencing tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This hearing loss can occur either from prolonged noise exposure or one single episode of explosive sound. Although preventable, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common cause of permanent hearing loss in Australia. Industries most at risk of excessive occupational noise include mining, manufacturing, transport, construction and logistics.

If you are a PCBU in NSW, you are required to abide by specific laws designed to control excessive noise exposure. PCBUs must comply with Part 4.1 of the WHS Regulation 2011 to manage noise (Clauses 56-59).

Clause 56

Clause 56 in the WHS Regulation 2011 provides a description of the two criteria of occupational exposure standards for noise. The first criteria relates to noise causing gradual hearing loss which happens over a period of time. This includes noise exceeding 85dB when noise is continuous over an eight-hour period. Remember, every 3dB increase doubles the risk of NIHL. The second criteria relates to acoustic trauma or immediate hearing loss. This is when noise exceeds 140dB during the day (regardless of time exposed). This noise can be generated by an explosive power tool or sudden impact and is incredibly harmful for employees.

Ideally, employers should keep noise levels below 50dB for high concentration work and below 70dB for routine, fast-paced work environments. A good indicator of excessive noise is when you have to raise your voice to speak with someone 1 metre away.

Clause 57

Clause 57 requires PCBUs to manage noise risks to ensure workers are not exposed to noise that exceeds Clause 56. This clause relies on the hierarchy of controls meaning that attempts must be made to reduce noise prior to deploying PPE. Examples of ways to reduce noise in the workplace include:

  • Reducing exposure levels by providing quiet areas for breaks and limiting the amount of work time spent in noise polluted areas
  • Ensuring all plant and machinery purchased is as quiet as possible; make sure to ask the supplier for noise level information
  • Altering work tasks, e.g. gluing instead of hammering
  • Reducing noise levels where possible, e.g. fitting silencers to exhausts
  • Isolating the noise source, e.g. using sound-proof equipment or covers
  • Using personal hearing protection (this is essential but should only be used as a last resort after the above methods).

Clause 58

Clause 58 requires PCBUs to provide audiometric testing for employees working in noisy environments. Employees who are required to wear hearing protection for NIHL must undertake testing upon employment commencement and every two years thereafter.

NOTE: SafeWork NSW has issued an exemption from this clause granted until 31 December 2020. In spite of this exemption, KINNECT considers audiometric testing incredibly valuable in detecting NIHL.

Clause 59

Clause 59 requires manufacturers of plant and equipment to provide information about noise emission to their customers. Manufacturers must ensure that their designs emit as little noise as possible. It is important to ensure you receive information about plant and equipment noise levels from your supplier under this clause.

For reference, the below table provides examples of common sources of noise and their respective level.

DecibelsNoise Source
85dBNoisy restaurant (85-90)
Garbage disposal (85-95)
Underground train station (90-115)
95dBElectric Drill
Motorcycle (95-110)
100dBFactory machines
110dBPower saw
Leaf blower
Baby crying
Symphony performance
Disco/band/rock concert (110-120)
120dBHammer hitting nail
Ambulance siren
130dBPercussion section at symphony
Car and dragster races (130-155)
140dBAirplane taking off
150dBArtillery fire at approx. 150m
Jet engine taking off



  1. SafeWork NSW 2019. Hazardous noise and hearing loss at work: The facts:
  2. SafeWork NSW 2019. Noise:



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