Construction Site Noise: What are Industry Standards?

Construction Site Noise Standards to Prevent Hearing Loss

Heaps of people working in the construction, mining and manufacturing industries of yesteryear have experienced hearing loss - my Dad, for example, needs to cup his ear when we’re at a pub after so many years of angle grinders in his steel fabrication workshop. So it's a great improvement now that industrial workplaces are cognisant of this issue and are helping people protect their hearing for longer. Long exposure to loud sounds is the most preventable form of hearing loss and we’re all about safe and healthy construction workers. Here are the limits you need to know:

Decibel Limits for Safe Work in Construction

  • 50 Decibels: If you work or live in an environment that requires concentration and effortless conversation
  • 70 Decibels - If your work is routine, fast-paced and demands attentiveness or if it is important to carry on conversations.
  • 85 Decibels - A worker, or person living near a construction site should not be exposed to louder than 85 decibels continuously over the 8-hour period
  • 140 Decibels - A worker or person living near a construction site should not be exposed to any sounds or noise levels louder than 140 decibels.

How Do I Know If Construction Noise Is Too Loud

Not all site managers are walking around with an auditory meter (they are actually pretty rare and needlessly expensive) but the governmental bodies actually recommend you use a guideline called the ‘One Meter Rule’ - which says that if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone clearly who is standing one meter away - then the noise level is possibly hazardous.

One of the cooler recent developments in the sound protection and safety space is that you can now download a phone app that can fairly accurately measure the decibel reading on any construction site - and these apps are available on Google Play or the Apple App Store. Here are some examples of effective decibel meter apps. Decibel X Decibel Meter Pro.

Decibel Readings for Common Construction Site Noises

Typical Sound Level in dB

Sound Source
140 Jet Engine at 30m
130 Rivet Hammer
120 Rock Drill
110 Chainsaw
100 Sheet Metal Workshop
90 Lawn Mower
85 Front End Loader
80 Heavy Kerbside Traffic
70 Loud Conversation

EPA Guidelines for Construction Noise

Australia's Environmental Protection Agency also have remit over our auditory environment and set guidelines around what are exceptional levels of noise from building or construction works in residential and commercial areas, or areas where people live or work.

The EPA refers to a concept of ‘unreasonable’ noise on a job site - and then goes on to make some fairly waffly explanations of what is, and isn’t unreasonable. Here’s the thing though this can become a really big problem for your site if you get multiple and ongoing noise complaints, so below is some handy guidelines if you end up in a stoush with a local titchy resident (or, groups of residents).

Here are the board guidelines (summarised):

Avoid Noisy 7-day-a-week work: noise would be considered unreasonable if audible by neighbours and non-stop every day. You're more likely to get complaints if residential areas around your sites are subject to constant loud noise across the full week

Sundays are generally a no-go for noisy work: it's considered automatically unreasonable if you work on the weekend in the above overnight exclusion timeframes, but it could also be considered unreasonable on say, a Sunday afternoon or if the work was long and noisy all day. Just try to avoid particularly noisy work on Sunday.

Site Preparation, Morning Truck Deliveries & Materials Transport: Getting deliveries of certain materials, with trucks and workers can be noisy (even if they aren’t the most common culprits for site noise complaints) - so ensure these too are undertaken within the acceptable work hours. Noise from idling parked trucks can be considered unreasonable, so make sure they are turned off.

Short Burst of Noisy Work: Organise short bursts of noisy work (jackhammers, nail guns, angle grinding) in stints in the middle of the day - closer to lunchtime.

Talking, Site Radios & Car Radios: We all know that conversations on construction sites can get spicy at the best of times. It's a common complaint from local residents that loud talking on construction sites (and unsavoury content such as swearing) can be considered unreasonable site noise as well as site radios and music coming from site utes.

The Best Noise Protection PPE

Below we’ve provided the most ‘fly’ PPE available for people wanting to protect their hearing on a job site.

  • Roll Down Earplugs
  • Push In Earplugs
  • Ear Muffs
  • Electronic Ear Muffs (with noise control and radio capability)

We recommend you go and see the legends at:

RSEA - Hearing Protection: These guys are the legends who do all the best safety gear and you can buy online. These guys only do hearing protection (for all sorts of applications other than the construction industry, so do it really well.

Seton Australia: These guys are a great online supplier to the construction industry and have a comprehensive range of PPE available to buy online.