Reducing Noise for People and Environmental Benefits
Just as all health and safety risks to employees cannot be entirely eliminated no matter how much health and safety training is provided without closing down and ceasing operations entirely, so too is it the case that all noise which is disturbing local residents and the environment is unlikely to be stopped completely without the same cessation. Whilst different legislation and regulations will be in force depending upon the particular country and legal jurisdiction in which the company's activities are taking place, many will require that managers - like with the matter of heath and safety - take all reasonable steps to mitigate the issue, which in this case will be noise which disturbs people and wildlife. So whilst it is not usually deemed necessary by authorities for the company to cease operations altogether, particularly if they were already given permission to operate, they will expect the company to put into place all reasonable actions to limit/reduce the noise produced.
Even so, some steps and changes to processes will actually eliminate noise entirely, or more likely prevent the sound from escaping from the confines of the building and being a nuisance to people and animal life outside. Although some activities may be able to be substituted for quieter ones, such as replacing traditional saw cutting tools with laser ones, more often than not the noise situation will be remedied by putting into place much more effective sound proofing and noise insulation measures. Whilst this will greatly improve the situation for those outside of the building, it will usually not provide any benefit for those working inside the room itself, and may sometimes even make the situation worse for them by actually increasing the noise levels inside the room. An important factor in health and safety is that an attempted remedy for a situation does not create or make worse an existing hazard. The knock-on effects of changing one process is something that managers need to be aware of and is one reason as to why risk assessments should be performed on a regular basis as well as when there have been changes to a process or method of working, even in a separate department or area of the company.
Aside from making alterations to processes, other methods of reducing noise levels which disturb those near to the premises include:
- Investing in more modern, quieter machinery which produces less sound and therefore can do the same function (often more quickly and efficiently if it is newer technology!) and produce less noise as it does so. If it is more efficient and uses less power to produce the same or more output, then this will also benefit the environment through reduced energy consumption which is likely to have been produced by a fossil fuel burning power station.
- If noise is proving a particular disruption and is the cause of protests and/or likely regulatory action, it may be necessary for the company to either move this particular process to a different site, or to outsource it to another businesses which is situated somewhere else. Although both alternatives are likely to result in greater costs for production, transportation of finished articles etc, it may be required to pacify local residents and stop a lot of time being spent fighting protests and court battles, not to mention possibly being forced upon them if regulators and authorities were about to step in and shut the activity down due to noise levels.
- Only performing loud activities at certain times of the day to disturb as few people as possible.