The environmental health impact of businesses in the construction industry and civil engineering works come with a high risk for noise issues potentially affecting the health of those at work and those affected in the surrounding area.  In construction, manufacture, recycling and extraction there is a likelihood of having loud processes and sources of noise that can be difficult to eliminate or reduce.

MAS consultants have a vast range of experience assessing noise impact on behalf of the noise producer, noise receiver (e.g. local residents) and noise enforcer (Environment Agency / local authority).

This includes:

  • Building construction, both small-scale and large-scale projects
  • Waste recycling including metals
  • Train loading and unloading, freight movement and railway noise
  • Ship loading and unloading at a working dock
  • Manufacturing and engineering for industrial markets, for example steelworks and factories producing large metal components
  • Mineral extraction, mining and drilling

Noise on site affecting you or your staff – occupational health.

Health effects of a noisy workplace and hearing damage

Hearing damage most commonly occurs from exposure to high noise levels without the use of adequate hearing protection. Damage to the inner ear can also be caused by sudden extremely loud noises. Such exposure can cause sensorineural hearing loss from damage to hair cells within the inner ear or nerves within the ear.  The result of hearing damage can be hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing). Both conditions are permanent.

Assessing the workplace for risk

It is the responsibility of the employer to have undertaken an appropriate risk assessment of the workplace and to take necessary action to reduce noise, providing signage in high noise areas, localised screening around noisy machines, purchasing low noise machines/equipment and providing protective equipment to minimise the risk of hearing damage.  This is outlined in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. We commonly assist businesses within the construction industry to comply with the regulations.  

Measuring noise levels

The measurement of sound levels is necessary for both determining the risk of damage caused by sudden extremely loud events and to calculate the noise ‘dose’ over  a working day or week.  There are lower and upper action levels to compare against the measured. This comparison allows an assessment of what action should be taken to reduce the noise dose/exposure. For this assessment we use a type I sound level meter. This is the highest classification of sound level meter calibrated and tested with UKAS accreditation.

Reducing noise on a construction site

The priority should always be to try and reduce noise at source by looking at isolating, insulating or changing the processes that are causing it.  We have experience in assisting with this using materials and design, such as custom-built acoustic enclosures.

Where it is not possible to reduce noise exposure then it may be necessary to provide adequate hearing protection including clear signage and training employees on how to use it.  Our report will provide you with all the steps necessary to do this.

For more information check out our page on Noise at work regulations

Noise affecting neighbouring areas – planning and nuisance

Using planning to avoid potential noise

Local planning authorities will be looking at the potential for noise nuisance when considering planning applications, entertainment licensing or building controls.  Therefore, it is often necessary to provide a noise impact assessment.

Noise impact assessments for planning

MAS have been commissioned to assess noise impact for a variety of sources of noise in industry, entertainment and new residential development.  A noise impact assessment that is provided with a planning application should detail site activities and their locations with relevant measurements, calculations and/or modelling of sound levels at affected neighbouring residences and businesses.  Where necessary we consider the context of the existing soundscape and propose noise mitigation. This can include passive measures such as screening and reorientation of buildings or operational measures including management plans for minimising noise impact and reducing the risk of complaint.

For more information check out our Noise Surveys page

Noise management plans

To minimise risk of impact, it is necessary to demonstrate that the “best practicable means” or if the premises has an Environment Agency environmental permit “appropriate measures/best available techniques” have been undertaken to reduce noise.  For example, we often use noise mapping software to estimate the appropriate position and height of an acoustic barrier required for reducing noise levels, minimising complaints and demonstrating compliance with any relevant noise criteria/limit.

A noise management plan should consider a worst-case situation.  Designing noise management for impact from the worse-case allows confidence that the typical level of noise occurring throughout the year will be of a lower impact.

A noise management plan should detail SMART working practices and introduce the necessary passive measures and operational processes for minimising noise impact.  This may include training staff for how to best minimise noise. 

Construction noise as a statutory nuisance

A typical case of statutory nuisance is noise from the construction industry that unreasonably affects a person’s use of and enjoyment of their home. With regards construction, this tends to be where a builder starts too early in the morning or undertakes activity that is not reasonable or consistent with best practice.

Noise from industrial or commercial premises

Local councils can serve an abatement notice on businesses. This can be a simple ‘abate the nuisance’ notice or contain a schedule of works/steps to reduce noise. Compliance with an abatement notice can be simple or require more complex engineering solutions. Much depends on the nature of the noise source and level of sound reduction required in the context of the area.

Appealing a local authority abatement notice

If your business has been served with an abatement notice it is usual practice to seek independent acoustic and legal advice.  At MAS we can review the notice and highlight any potential drafting errors. We can also advise on the current level of noise impact and potential areas of appeal.  This includes if the term statutory nuisance has been justifiably applied, if the terms of the notice are reasonable and necessary such as the time limit for compliance being sufficient, if the notice is correctly written and served or if there are errors and if you can demonstrate using best practicable means to avoid causing nuisance.

Our team has experience working in local authorities, drafting and serving notices. Mike Stigwood provides training on the enforceability of Environmental Protection Act 1990 Section 80 abatement notices. MAS also provide training on how to draft enforceable planning conditions.

For more information see our page on Investigating a Statutory Nuisance

Environment Agency (EA) controls

Many industrial processes are regulated by the Environment Agency (EA). The industrial process undertakes activities that can give rise to ‘pollution’ or ‘significant pollution’ as defined by the EA. The industrial operator applies and is typically granted an environmental permit. The permit may contain conditions on how the operator should operate. This sometimes includes a specific noise criteria to be achieved.

MAS have assisted many industrial operators to comply with their permit and demonstrate that “appropriate measures” have been implemented to reduce noise emissions from the site. MAS have also undertaken noise assessments as part of the permit application process. Including extensions to permits to allow the use of additional areas for industrial processes albeit within the same premises footprint.

Planning for new residential properties near existing industrial and commercial operators

A planning application for new residential housing near existing noise-generating industry may be a cause for concern for the businesses that are operating and generating the noise.  New housing introduces noise sensitive receptors that were not previously there. There is a wide misconception that new residents will have no right to complain as the industry was present and operating first.  However, this is often not the case and if a local council allows for noise sensitive residential housing to be built they have an obligation to protect the residents from a statutory nuisance, for example not being able to get adequate sleep or enjoy the outside space.

For more information check out our page on Planning for new noise-sensitive residential property next to existing sources of noise.

Other nuisance such as air pollution from dust, odour and chemicals

Air pollution management scheme for planning applications

A planning application for a new development may require a scheme for the suppression and control of emissions from the site to be included with the application when it is submitted to the local planning authority. 

MAS provide odour and air pollution management proposals for planning applications for new developments.

The management proposal would detail the causes and mechanisms of dust, malodour or other air pollution and provide well recognised and accepted odour control technologies within the design and as applied at similar facilities elsewhere.

An example of a site with common odour problems is a waste recycling facility. Adverse effects are widely recognised to occur when operated without appropriate odour control plant for this type of facility.

The air pollution mitigation strategy proposed will only be successful if it is likely to manage adverse effects.  For example, a waste recycling centre building may require a high level of air tightness to prevent fugitive emissions and maintain a negative pressure. 

Emissions such as odour being considered as a nuisance

If there are premises that are used for odour sensitive activities located close by (e.g. residential properties, offices or hotel) and are downwind for a large proportion of the time they could experience regular adverse impact from a source of odour or air pollution.  In the case of a commercial property such as a hotel this could be seriously detrimental to its business. 

At MAS we can assist with issues of odour as a nuisance including as a statutory nuisance.  For more information see our page Odour, dust and air pollution


Mike Stigwood
& Terri Stigwood

About us


01223 982912