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Noise in the office

Noise is usually defined as any disturbing sound. In practice, however, it is referred to as ‘sound’ when pleasant, and ‘noise’ when annoying. Generally, the acceptable levels of noise in office areas are below those levels known to pose a risk to hearing.

Tips

  • Monitor how loud you speak.
  • Keep ringtone levels to a minimum.
  • Use office rooms for lengthy conversations.

Potential harm

  • Stress
  • Worker distraction
  • Reduced productivity

Identified hazards and controls

Worker distraction, stress and headaches

Cause

  • Hearing other people’s conversations in the work area.
  • Loud ring tones on mobile phones.
  • Noises from office equipment, such as printers, photocopiers and phones.

What workers can do

  • Be mindful of the volume of your voice.
    Many people don’t recognise that they can unconsciously raise their voice when speaking on the phone. We tend to think speaking louder makes us clearer to understand.
  • Be mindful of the volume of your personal devices.
    If you listen to music using headphones while working, you shouldn’t have the volume too loud as this introduces new noise risks. Your co-workers should not be able to hear your music. Try and have the volume at a level so you can still hear colleagues who need to talk to you and emergency warning sounds.
  • Make sure you keep your mobile phone volume low while at work, as a courtesy to others. Go to a quiet room to take these calls.
  • Use a meeting room for video meetings and video conferences rather than at your desk.
  • Get away from the noise by taking temporary breaks. For example, you could get a drink of water, go to the printer or take a quick walk outside.
  • Tell your colleagues if you have an important deadline to meet and need a quieter environment to concentrate.

What employers can do

  • When purchasing printers and photocopiers consider purchasing ones with lower noise output.
  • Listen to worker complaints and take action to identify the source of the noise.
  • Implement some noise-related policies which describe appropriate levels of noise, and when and where it acceptable to have loud conversations and conference calls.
  • Locate printers and photocopiers away from workers, preferably in a separate ventilated room.
  • If necessary, measure the noise levels in the office. It is likely, however, that the level will be lower than the level that causes hearing loss. You will need to consult an audiometric expert before taking this option.
  • Design the workplace with the functions to be performed in mind. For example, a call centre has different requirements regarding noise than administrative functions. The types of materials used in construction or refurbishment of the workplace should provide adequate sound absorbing properties, such as carpet, partitions and plants.

Further information

Guidance

Legislation

Codes

Page last reviewed: 03 May 2021

Comcare (Office Safety tool)
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 29 Jun 2022

https://www.comcare.gov.au/office-safety-tool/spaces/work-areas/noise-in-the-office