Noise Pollution: A Quick Guide to Environmental Law

All kinds of noises can cause disruption for neighbours, whether it’s the constant low hum of industrial air conditioning units, the buzz of chillers, or the continual rumbling of generators from business premises.

The World Health Organisation describes excess noise as the “invisible threat” to people’s health. Cities have become the epicentre of loud noise. It can damage our hearing by causing deafness and tinnitus. Prolonged exposure to noise can lead to stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.

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In more severe cases, continual excess noise can lead to high blood pressure, a racing pulse, headaches, colitis and gastritis, and in extreme noises, even heart attacks.


Construction sites

Building sites create a lot of noise by nature of the work. Demolition work, noisy machinery, drilling and other kinds of activity on a construction site can wreak havoc for neighbours, especially in a residential area. The council can regulate the noise before the work starts and also after it begins, if a complaint is received.

When a builder applies for consent, the council can set noise rules. When a complaint is received, the council will measure the noise before deciding whether to impose conditions. If the noise continues, offenders can receive a fine of up to £20,000.

There is a code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction sites, with BS 5228 detailing the need for protection against noise and vibration for people working on, or living near, building sites.

Sound Planning is a specialist acoustic consultant in relation to construction noise, in accordance with BS 5228.


Generator noise

Compressors and generators are predominantly used in refineries, generating stations, chemical plants and industries that transport gas. The average noise level for an air compressor is 85 dB, while generators have a noise level of between 70dB and 100dB

Constructed using a series of acoustic construction systems to reduce excessive noise levels; solutions include panels, walls, floors, doors and roofs. It is common practice to use compressor or generator enclosures, which can reduce noise levels by up to 34 dB Rw.

This can help prevent employees from being exposed to loud noise in the workplace, reducing the risks of hearing loss and tinnitus. If employees are subject to excess noise in the workplace, it is something the Health and Safety Executive can look into.

Employers are responsible for protecting their employees from excessive noise under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. The HSE will enforce the law if high exposure to occupational noise is interfering with workplace safety and is likely to lead to hearing damage.

If you’re the owner of industrial or factory premises that are causing an unreasonable amount of noise, you could find yourself under investigation, with the possibility of being issued with a large fine.


Air conditioning

Businesses with noisy air conditioning units commonly use acoustic enclosures that are designed to meet local authority noise reduction targets.

AC units can emit between 37 dB and 82 dB of noise, depending on the model. On average, they emit 70 dB of noise, which is the same as a domestic vacuum cleaner.

Acoustic enclosures can also be used to reduce the noise from chillers, pumps, engine test rooms, generators, industrial equipment, fans and plant rooms. The main components include acoustic panels, acoustic louvres, acoustic doors and attenuators. Suitable for outdoor and indoor applications, they facilitate airflow, while reducing noise.


Pubs and clubs

The local council is empowered to deal with complaints about excess noise from clubs and pubs. This can include noise from music and social activities, or from equipment, such as generators.

Neighbours are protected by the Noise Act 1996 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which covers loud noises at night. If your generator’s noise level exceeds local codes of conduct, first consider its size and whether it matches your electrical needs. If the answer is yes, the onus rests on the business owner to keep the noise level down.


What is the solution to the problem?

To avoid falling foul of the law; businesses who are creating a noise nuisance can use various noise control solutions provided by a professional consultant.

Sound Planning specialises in consultancy services to measure potential noise nuisance. We also provide various solutions to help businesses, organisations and individuals who are causing excess noise, including acoustic enclosures for sources of noise including AC units, pumps, chillers, generators, plant rooms and more.

We also offer many other services and products such as acoustic walls and acoustic floors, louvres, louvre doors and more.

For information on our range of products and services to combat noise pollution, including a free consultation, contact Sound Planning today.


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