Working in Noise Sensitive Environments

We all know working in the building and construction industry can be a noisy job! With the typical noise of an angle grinder (110 dB) being reminiscent of attending a live rock concert, this can have negative consequences when carrying out building and construction projects, particularly in noise sensitive areas.

Noise effect in dB drawing_9961Whether you are cutting, grinding or drilling, extra consideration for noise needs to be taken when working in the following noise sensitive areas:

  • Hospitals – Noise can lengthen hospital stays by slowing the recovery rate due to increased metabolism, quickened heart rate and elevated blood pressure. It can also increase stress levels and fatigue of the staff*
  • Schools – Noise can be distracting for the pupils and can affect performance in memory tasks and reading.  Children with special needs are also more susceptible to noise †
  • Elderly People – Excessive noise near care homes, especially those with dementia patients, can cause confusion, illusions, frustration and agitation ‡
  • Offices – Nearby construction work can be distracting for workers and can affect their performance
  • Residential spaces - This is more likely to trigger noise complaints as the majority of people expect their home to be somewhere to relax and not be disturbed. This is especially the case for people who work night shifts and may be trying to sleep during the day  


Minimising Construction Noise

One way to reduce this risk is by using quieter equipment. Silent diamond blades, such as Norton Silencio has up to 15 dB reduction in cutting noise, equivalent to up to 30 times less noise than a standard product.  With more and more local regulations preventing excessive noise levels, the Norton Silencio is an ideal option as it protects the surrounding area from disturbing cutting noise.

With 17mm high segments, it has excellent cutting speed even on hard materials like granite. It can be used on reinforced concrete, concrete, bricks, natural stones (such as flintstone, granite, sandstone), block paviours, and all general purpose building materials.

Order via your sales representative or contact us to find out more.

70184628998  Norton Clipper Silencio Universal 350mm Diamond Blade_74545


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In addition to using quieter equipment, there are other things you can do to limit noise levels:

  • Move the equipment further away using extension cords
  • Build temporary sound barriers to block the noise
  • Carry out louder tasks when there are less people around
  • Limit the hours worked in a hazardous noise area and include ‘quiet days’ when scheduling work
  • Make sure you effectively maintain equipment as loose and worn parts can vibrate creating noise
  • Post warning signs in hazardous areas and near equipment
  • Avoid working in enclosed spaces which reflect noise back and increase exposure levels


User Safety

As well as having a potential negative effect on others in noise sensitive areas, the noise from using construction tools can also increase the risk of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) to the user.

Regular exposure to noise levels of 110 dB or more for periods longer than one minute can cause hearing loss and tinnitus, the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. The higher the noise level, the faster the hearing loss. It also affects your ability of what is going on around you, which may increase your chance of being involved in an accident. Gradual exposure to loud noise can turn into permanent hearing loss and cannot be corrected with surgery or hearing aids.

A research study by the Building Trades National Medical Screening Program (BTMed) § found that the construction industry saw the second highest number of workers exposed to noise hazards (manufacturing was the first), with nearly 80% of welders suffering from hearing loss and 47% or roofers experiencing NIHL.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that a 25-year old carpenter is likely to have the ears of 50-year old person who has not been exposed to noise.



Protecting Yourself

picto Ear Protection with description_11960It’s important for construction workers to always wear hearing protection, such as ear defenders, foam ear plugs, custom molded plugs and canal caps. However, don’t rely on hearing protection as the only control as every care must be taken to reduce the noise in the first instance.

Other PPE equipment is needed to ensure you carry out the task safely, including safety glasses, safety footwear and head protection to protect you from other risks when using machinery, such as flying debris and sparks. If you’re routinely exposed to excessive noise levels, annual hearing tests should be carried out to determine if more needs to be done to protect your hearing.

According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers are required to inform workers about the hazards they face on the job and provide safety training in a language they can understand and how they can protect themselves. Click here to find out more from the HSE about how you can control the risks of producing high noise levels.

For more information about how Norton can help reduce noise in your construction project, please contact our experts by completing our web form



* Vaidyanathan, S, 2014