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Research indicates that between 28-32% of Australia’s workforce work in a noisy environment. 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 including mining, manufacturing, transport, construction and logistics.

If you are a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in Victoria, you are required to abide by specific laws designed to control excessive noise exposure. PCBUs must comply with Part 3 of the Work Safe Victoria Noise Compliance Code 2018 to manage noise (Part 3.1-3.4).

Part 3.1 – Hazard identification – exposure standard

Part 3.1 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 one metre away.

Part 3.2 – Determining exposure to noise

Part 3.2 requires PCBUs to conduct a noise determination assessment to help them assess whether the limitations in Part 3.1 are exceeded and identify what is causing that risk. This is only required if, based on reasonable grounds, there is uncertainty about the level of noise in the work environment. Noise determinations can be performed by hearing conservation consultants, occupational health and safety consultants, acoustical consultants and occupational hygienists.

Part 3.3 – Risk control

Part 3.3 requires PCBUs to manage noise risks to ensure workers are not exposed to noise that exceeds Part 3.1. This part 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).

Part 3.4 – Audiometric testing and audiological examinations

Part 3.4 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.

KINNECT offer audiometric testing which includes baseline and periodic testing that ensures you are meeting your legislative requirements. The program also identifies employees who may have occupational noise induced hearing loss to ensure early intervention and treatment is provided.

Under Victorian legislation, PCBUs must refer the employee for an audiological examination if “the results of two or more audiometric tests over a period not exceeding two years indicate a reduction in hearing levels equal to or greater than 15dB at 3000, 4000 or 6000 Hz.”


  1. Work Safe Victoria 2018. Compliance code: Noise. Edition 1

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