Understanding Noise Regulations: Compliance and Legal Requirements in the UK

25th July 2023

Author: Wakefield Acoustics – Noise Control Specialists | Last Updated: July 2023

Noise pollution is a significant concern across the UK, impacting the well-being of individuals and the environment. To tackle this issue, legislation and guidelines are in place in order to protect the quality of life for the public and workforce alike.

At Wakefield Acoustics we understand the importance of industrial noise control solutions such as acoustic enclosures, acoustic screens and acoustic containers. For businesses, getting to grips with the regulations will provide peace of mind that you are doing your duty to protect your employees and the quality of life for your neighbours.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

For workers and employers, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are in place across the UK. These regulations aim to protect employees from excessive noise exposure in the workplace. Under these codes, employers are legally obligated to assess and control the risks related to noise in the workplace.

The regulations specify the following legal requirements:

  • Noise Assessments: Employers must conduct regular noise assessments to identify areas and job roles where noise exposure exceeds the exposure action values (EAVs) or peak action values (PAVs). These assessments help determine necessary control measures to minimize exposure.
  • Exposure Action Values (EAVs): The regulations define two exposure action values. The lower EAV is set at a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80 decibels (dB). The upper EAV is 85 dB. Employers must take action to reduce noise exposure if employees reach or exceed these values.
  • Hearing Protection: If noise levels reach or exceed the upper EAV, employers must provide suitable hearing protection to employees and ensure its proper use. Employers should also inform and train employees on the importance of hearing protection and its correct usage.
  • Health Surveillance: Employers must establish health surveillance programs for employees exposed to high noise levels. These programs monitor employees’ hearing and detect early signs of hearing loss.

Environmental Noise Regulations and Legislation

The effects of environmental noise on health is an area of continued development and research, with varied types of noise ‘sources’ creating the potential for disturbance including transportation and industrial noise, and more latterly, wind farms. In fact, as recently as January 2023, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launched a new inquiry into the impacts of artificial light and noise on human health, and the WHO issued a series of Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region in 2019.

These guidelines also sit alongside other UK policies including the Environmental Noise Regulations, Noise Policy Statements and the Environmental Protection Act. For the assessment of industrial noise on the surrounding areas, BS4142 is commonly used, as are the Observed Effect Levels (NOEL – no effect, LOAEL – lowest observed effect level, SOAEL – significant observed effect levels).

Key elements of environmental noise regulations and guidelines include:

  • Noise Assessment and Reporting: Onus on operators of noisy premises to conduct noise assessments to determine the noise levels generated by their activities
  • Legal Noise Limits: Local permitting under environmental noise guidance can set legally permissible noise limits for different time periods, such as daytime, evening, and night. These limits vary depending on the type of area (e.g., industrial, residential, or commercial).
  • Noise Mitigation and Management Measures: Operators of premises must take appropriate measures to minimize noise emissions. This may include using quieter equipment, implementing noise barriers, or adhering to specific operating hours.
  • Complaints and Enforcement: Individuals affected by excessive noise can file complaints with the appropriate environmental health authority. These authorities have the power to enforce compliance, issue notices, and take legal action against non-compliant parties.

Understanding and complying with noise regulations is crucial for both employers and operators of premises in the UK. By adhering to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and environmental noise regulations, businesses can protect the hearing health of their employees and reduce noise pollution in the surrounding areas.

This blog post provides an overview of noise regulations in the UK up until 2022. It is not intended as legal advice, and readers should consult relevant laws, regulations, and legal professionals for specific guidance.

If you have any questions or would like more information on our products and services, please contact Wakefield Acoustics at +44 (0) 1924 418 940 or email via noise@wakefieldacoustics.co.uk.

Wakefield Acoustics has extensive experience in providing bespoke solutions for general industrial applications: