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How a sound level meter will help you measure noise at work

John measuring worker with Assessor ThumbnailThe HSE estimates that around one million employees in the UK are exposed to levels of noise at work which puts their hearing at risk.

If you are an employer, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) applies to you. It requires you or any member of your staff responsible for this area to prevent or reduce risks to Health and Safety from exposure to noise across the business. As an employer, you have a number of duties under the Regulations that you will need to incorporate in your Health and Safety Strategy and hearing conservation programme.


These include:

  • Assessing the risks to your staff (permanent or temporary) from the noise generated in your workplace
  • Being pro-active and take steps to reduce exposure to noise
  • Ensuring that your staff are given hearing protection if you are not able to reduce noise exposure by other means
  • Communicating with your staff and offer training where applicable
  • Undertaking health surveillance if a risk to health is identified

Action levels and limit values: what are they?

You will be expected to take suitable action at certain levels in order to comply with the Regulations.

These actions rely on information on the:

  • Exposure to noise of staff employed by your organisation averaged over a working day or week, and
  • Maximum noise (expressed as peak sound pressure) to which staff are exposed over a working shift or day

Limit values to be aware of:


Measuring noise in the workplace

The information that you are required to collate and evidence is two-fold:

  • Continuous A-weighted sound pressure level (LAeq). This is the sound a member of staff is exposed to during a shift or working day (also expressed as Leq or LAeq or LAeq,t)
  • Maximum C-weighted peak sound pressure level(s) to which a member of staff is exposed (also shown as LCPeak). These can be the loud bangs in the workplace.

How will a sound level meter help you?

Pulsar Nova sound level meter noise at work displayThere are many hand-held sound level meters on the market all claiming to be able to perform different functions. However you should look at a number of functionalities and conformities to be certain that your noise measurements comply with the noise legislation such as:

  • Compliance with the current standards for sound level meters IEC 61672-1 – minimum Class 2*
  • Ability to measure LAeq and LCPeak (see previous section for details)
  • Selection of PPE using the HML method (optional)

In the current standard, sound level meters are split into two categories known as Class 1 or Class 2 which refers to the level of tolerance.  (Class 1 indicates a measurement over a wider frequency range).

We recommend that you purchase an acoustic calibrator to calibrate and check the accuracy of your sound level meter before each measurement and again, when turning your sound level meter off.

What of personal noise dosimeters?

A personal noise dosimeter is similar to a sound level meter. The difference is that it records sound level measurements and integrates these over a period of time such as a full working day or shift, generating, at the end of it, an average reading for the noise exposure. This type of device, such as sold by Pulsar Instruments, is worn on the body such as a worker’s shoulder close to the operator’s ear. It is an ideal tool to calculate exposure to noise for mobile or hard to reach workers where the use of a sound level meter would not be not practical.

Again, in order to meet the legislation, look out for a product that will be:

  • Compliant with the applicable standards such as IEC 61252 for Personal Sound Exposure Meters
  • Ability to measure the LAeq and LCPeak values
  • Offer a calibration option before and after measurements

Becoming familiar with the Employers’ duties under the Noise at Work Regulations and implementing an effective hearing conservation programme with the help of the right noise measurement equipment is paramount to safeguard workers’ hearing and to avoid hearing loss. Complementary advice to this article can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website  Alternatively, go to to source compliant sound level meters and personal noise dosemeters to measure and control noise at work.

For further advice on controlling workplace noise, download Pulsar’s free 5 Steps Guide to Controlling Workplace Noise.


To find out more about the Pulsar noise monitoring equipment that can effectively measure the levels of noise in your work environment or outdoors, visit Pulsar Instruments. Alternatively, please ring one of our team members on 01723 518011 today.

Read here more industry-related blogs from Pulsar Instruments Plc.

Related Posts:

  1. Sound level meters for controlling noise at work
  2. Why you should use a windshield with your sound level meter
  3. Why buy Pulsar Instruments?
This blog appeared first on Pulsar Instruments’ website in 2015 – amended June 2016
©Pulsar Instruments 2016. Un-authorised use and/or duplication of the above content or picture without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pulsar Instruments with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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