Introduction to this document

Average noise levels

New noise legislation has led to a big reduction in the workplace sound levels that are legally permissible. For this reason, we have included a table to help you assess how loud typical work activities can be in practice.

Average noise levels

As one of the effects of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) is to reduce legally permissible noise levels in the workplace to a maximum average of 87dB at the ear, or peak sound pressure of 140dB (for short bursts of very loud noise), it’s even more important to have a rough idea of the different noise levels created by various work activities involving machinery or electrical hand tools. To help you do this, we have created a simple table that gives Average Noise Levels.

Using the table

The table is divided into two columns. The left hand one lists the most common types of noise generated by a variety of equipment, ranging from tractor cabs through to carpentry and chainsaw use. As a comparison, it also includes some everyday sounds, such as a quiet office and a supermarket as means of comparison. The right hand column lists approximate sound levels in decibels. For example, a power drill produces an average of 95 dB(A), whilst a pneumatic drill at five metres distance produces noise at 100 dB(A). With the maximum average sound permissible at the ear now only 87dB, a glance at this table will quickly reveal which activities you may need to manage more closely and introduce control measures for.