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Construction Sites Making All the Right Noises in Reducing Sound Pollution

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Recently, City of Perth Council in Western Australia has recorded a 50 per cent increase in noise complaints. It cited a combination of the city’s vibrant entertainment precinct and high levels of construction noise during the day as being responsible for the surge in complaints. Of the 564 noise complaints received, 130 were related to construction noise.

Of the 564 noise complaints received in the city of Perth, 130 were related to construction noise. 

It may be hard to fathom, but protecting cities and citizens against the adverse effects of excessive noise—also known as noise pollution—is taken seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it is regulated within the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

In order to find out more about what the construction industry can do to reduce the effects of noise pollution, Jobsite ANZ spoke to the Queensland Government Office of Industrial Relations (OIR). 

Protection for Community and Construction Workers  

According to a spokesperson from the OIR, noise from building sites is regulated by individual local councils, which have laws in place to protect citizens against noise pollution. 

However much it may appear that noisy jobsites affect the community adversely, one thing is clear—the people closest to the source of the noise are the construction workers themselves. 

The OIR points out that “employers at construction sites have a duty under the Work Health and Safety regulation to protect workers from hazardous noise. As the noise generated at a workplace diminishes the further you move away from it, it is unlikely that a person outside the workplace would be exposed above the (accepted) standards.”

How to Reduce Noise Pollution

A spokesperson from the OIR provided various examples of how engineering controls can aid in decreasing noise pollution. These include:

  • Adding noise barriers, noise enclosures, vibration isolation mountings, laggings, mufflers, and silencers in order to reduce noise at the source

  • Replacing various material-based implements with others that are quieter: for example, replacing rollers with conveyor belts, or metal-to-metal contact with plastic bumpers

  • Using sound absorbing materials on floors, ceilings, or walls, to reduce the sound level due to reverberation

  • Using acoustical silencers in intake and exhaust systems, such as internal combustion exhaust systems or air conditioning systems

  • Personal hearing protectors can be worn to cover the ear and ear canal entrance, or inserted in the ears of a person to protect their hearing. Personal hearing protectors should, however, be a last resource when noise levels cannot be reduced by other control methods

The OIR adds there are also administrative controls to consider. “These should be used when it is not possible to reduce noise exposure through engineering noise control measures.” 

Noise mufflers, vibration isolators, or duct silencers can also be added. 

Administrative controls can include scheduling considerations, such as notifying people in advance when noisy work is to be carried out or sign-posting noisy area, so they can limit their exposure to it. Machine maintenance also plays a role in reducing noise pollution, as machines in a better condition will usually operate more quietly. Noise mufflers, vibration isolators, or duct silencers can also be added.

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