Nuisance Noise in the Workplace

We are all affected by noise daily inside and outside of work. For the most part, this does not affect us unduly, but on occasions, it can disrupt our work and potentially at times affect our health.

In our workplaces, nuisance noise is the most common form of disruption and when occurring can lead to issues with concentration, productivity, irritability and stress.

It should not be confused with excessive or prolonged exposure to noise from plant equipment or other sources, where this noise is at such a level (over 80 dB(A) that it can cause harm – see details on our noise risk assessment.

Typically, in offices ambient noise levels will vary and can range between 50dB(A) and 60dB(A). Where ambient noise can become a cause for dissatisfaction and frustration will depend on several factors, which include:

  • The volume of the noise;
  • The background levels of noise;
  • The frequency of the noise produced;
  • Duration – over how long it is occurring;
  • Repetition – is it a constant hum or drum, or an occasional clicking for example;
  • Noise content – whether it is for example conversation, equipment noise, whistling, etc;
  • Whether there is any vibration or resonance with the noise;
  • The time of day the noise occurs; and
  • The person – we are all affected in different ways.

Investigating your workplace noise can be as easy as having a competent person check your ambient levels of noise as part of a wider indoor environment assessment or workplace environment assessment. Where complaints are being received this should then consider some of the wider possible factors/influences.