Noise Pollution and Noise Complaints (page 3)

Do I have to control exposure to noise?

Yes. You must take reasonably practicable steps to reduce noise exposure by means other than providing ear protection if you or anyone who works for you is exposed to either:

  • a daily personal noise exposure level of 85 decibels or above, which covers noise exposure over the course of a working day
  • a peak sound pressure of 137 decibels or above, produced by a single loud noise


The most effective way of controlling noise is by removing the source of noise. Could you change working practices or processes to avoid noise risks without making them less efficient? For instance lower the level of the background music system.

If this isn’t practicable, you must take steps to reduce noise levels. Look at each source of noise in turn and consider how it can be controlled. Make the noisiest sources your priority for action. You can read what are considered to be reasonable steps at the HSE website:

Steps you can take

Consider both “engineering” and “organisational” solutions. For example, you could:

  • use dampening to stop machine panels vibrating on a noisy remote cooler – engineering solution
  • reduce fan speeds – engineering solution
  • fit silencers on exhausts – for instance from your kitchen ventilation system – engineering solution
  • enclose machinery parts – engineering solution
  • put up soundproof barriers – engineering solution
  • use insulation to contain sound within buildings for instance in your function room – engineering solution
  • change working patterns so that any exposure to high noise levels is for shorter lengths of time – for instance rotate staff from a noisy function room to a quieter bar – organisational solution
  • position sources of noise further away from workers – move speakers form your back ground system away from the bar – organisational solution


Remember to consider the impact of noise on people in the vicinity of your business. For instance, you could position sources of noise away from the boundaries of your premises, such as a smoking shelter or barbecue area.

Regular maintenance will also ensure your machinery and equipment run with the minimum possible noise.

You can also read about practical solutions for controlling noise on the HSE website:

Should I provide hearing protection?

The best way to reduce noise exposure in your business is to eliminate or reduce it at source. Hearing protection is a last resort and should only be used when all other reasonable steps have been taken to control risks or as a stop-gap measure.

You must provide hearing protection if a worker’s noise exposure levels are:

  • above 85 decibels
  • between 80 and 85 decibels and they request hearing protection


Types of hearing protection include:

  • earmuffs, which cover the ears – for instance might be used in your beer cellar if the fans produce so much noise to make it a hazard
  • ear plugs, which go in the ears
  • semi-inserts, which cover the entrance to the ear canal


Hearing protection should always:

  • reduce noise exposure to below 85 decibels
  • be compatible with other protective equipment worn
  • fit properly
  • be maintained in good condition
  • be used correctly


You can download a guide to personal protective equipment from the Health & Safety Executive:

As well as setting a good example, you should identify zones where hearing protection must be worn and mark them with clear and appropriate signs for instance in a disco or function room. Ensure all your staff has been trained how to use their hearing protection and that they use it whenever and wherever required.

It’s your duty to ensure people wear their hearing protection – you might consider carrying out spot checks and make not wearing protection a disciplinary offence.

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