Environmental Noise Monitoring – Supporting Your Workforce with Noise Assessments
As one of the most frequently complained about environmental pollutants, noise pollution can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health, as well as our overall quality of life. Noise or sound level monitoring assesses the magnitude of noise within a given environment, identifying any potential noise-related problems and environments that may cause exposure to excessive levels of sound.
If left unchecked, excessive sound levels caused by environmental noise could lead to a host of health-related concerns, including sleep disturbance, hearing and vision impairment/loss, heart problems, hypertension and more.
What is environmental noise?
Environmental noise is defined as unwanted or harmful outdoor sound on a given premises and the surrounding locality. It is created by human activity and incorporates elements such as industrial noise (welding, hammering, drilling, grinding etc), noise from transport and noise from domestic premises, such as recreational activities.
Further examples of environmental noise include:
- Industrial and commercial noise
- Railway and traffic noise
- Construction noise
- Industrial process noise
- Hospitality noise.
Data collected from noise level measurement and monitoring enables organisations to understand trends and actions that can be taken to reduce noise pollution, ensuring safer noise levels in the workplace and the wider community.
How do I monitor noise levels?
In terms of how to measure noise, the monitoring of environmental noise will require different instrumentation, techniques and noise assessments depending on whether it is required short or long-term. What’s more, the extent to which it is determined as nuisance/pollution is subjective. A number of different noise assessments and monitoring techniques can be used to determine the level of environmental noise:
- Type 1/Class 1 precision sound level meters, used for broadband and real time octave and one-third octave band frequency analysis
- Narrow band analysers and digital recording systems for identifying specific noise sources, particularly in noise nuisance cases.
Is there any legislation in place regarding environmental noise monitoring?
Organisations should adhere to the following legislation when it comes to environmental noise monitoring:
- BS 4142 ‘Method for Rating Industrial Noise Affecting Mixed Residential & Industrial Areas’ (to assess noise nuisance in mixed industrial and residential areas)
- BS 5228 ‘Noise Control on Construction & Open Sites’ (to determine noise levels generated by construction sites and to advise on control measures)
- ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, or for determining compliance with planning consent (to measure environmental noise from an industrial site as a requirement)
- Following guidance in Department of Environment Publication PPG 24 ‘Planning & Noise’ (for assisting land developers with planning applications).
How is environmental noise monitoring conducted?
Suitable and accurate environmental noise measurement must be conducted using noise monitoring equipment. A variety of noise monitors can be used, with the technique/device selected depending upon the environmental noise. This can range from handheld noise monitors, which allow users to make a quick judgement about the levels of noise, to outdoor noise measurement kits, which allow monitoring of noise for ongoing periods/longer durations.
A noise survey takes noise level measurements throughout an entire plant or section to identify areas and environments where noise levels are excessive. Noise surveys are usually undertaken using a sound level/noise meter and cover:
- Areas where employees are likely to be exposed to harmful levels of noise
- Machines and equipment which generate harmful levels of noise
- Employees who may be exposed to unacceptable noise levels
- Noise control options to reduce exposure levels
- Variability in noise levels during different operating conditions
- Impact on noise level from modifications or changes in operations.
Noise modelling is another example of a monitoring that can be used when the need to make comparisons between new and existing noise climates is required, such as when making modifications to an existing site. Lastly, noise prediction from potential construction sites and road traffic is essential in helping to identify the degree of noise nuisance.
How does monitoring noise help the environment?
According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), noise pollution is responsible for 16,600 premature deaths and more than 72,000 hospitalisations every year in Europe. Noise monitoring helps to identify locations and environments where there are noise problems, individuals who may be exposed to excessive noise levels and where adequate noise control measures need to be implemented. By monitoring noise levels on an ongoing basis, organisations will be able to ensure that residents and the surrounding environment are not subjected to the short and long-term health effects and ecological impacts.
How can SOCOTEC support?
SOCOTEC Monitoring has a wealth of experience in dealing with environmental noise to the manufacturing industry, property developers, the railway, local authorities and complainants experiencing a noise nuisance. By monitoring and assessing environmental noise, SOCOTEC Monitoring can issue fully-comprehensive reports of all measurements taken, interpreted against current legislation and guidance. Where necessary, advice and recommendations can be given including immediate actions to control noise nuisance, and possible control measures to reduce noise complaints.