The Importance of Industrial Noise

The Control of Noise Regulations, 2005 is the latest in a series of UK legislative measures designed to minimise the damaging effects of excessive industrial noise in the workplace. With a growing emphasis on controlling noise at source, designers and manufacturers of machinery have a greater obligation to address the techniques available for controlling noise during the design process. The response to a noise problem of "issue ear defenders" is no longer acceptable except as a last resort.

A clear understanding of noise and vibration measurement, analysis and control techniques, however, is patchy. In order to carry out noise control measures effectively, an awareness of the underlying physical processes is important together an understanding of the wide ranging techniques available.

For example:

  • The significance of an 8 hour equivalent energy level in A-weighted decibels.
  • An appreciation of the techniques to convert sound pressure measurements to sound power level and vice-versa.
  • A knowledge of the difference between sound insulation and sound absorption.

It is only with a comprehension of the basic technology can improvements be made. The Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999, The Noise Emissions in the Environment by Equipment for Use Outdoors Directive (2000/14/EC) and the UK Government response (Directive 2005/88/EC) are a wake-up call to machine manufacturers.

The directive sets out both noise limits and labelling requirements for a number of types of machines intended for use outdoors. The directive encompasses 57 categories of equipment for which noise measurements must be obtained and labels must be affixed showing the "guaranteed" noise level from the machine. In many cases these are sound power level values.

Noise mapping has also begun to comply with the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006, and these are intended to inform the production of noise action plans for large urban areas, major transport sources, and significant industrial sites in England. This information will feed into Directive 2002/49/EC, more commonly known as the Environmental Noise Directive.