According to HSE data, reported incidences of work-related hearing loss have decreased. And the number of new claims have almost halved, due to increasing awareness.

Yet in the UK there are still 17,000 people suffering with hearing problems from excessive noise in the workplace. The importance as an employer to control noise is obvious.

What impact can noise have on a person?

For reference, a normal conversation level is around 60-62 dBA. Noise at work can cause effects which can be temporary or permanent including:

  • Irritation or anger, from sound levels from 35 decibels (dBa)
  • Nervousness, stress and interrupted concentration, from sound levels from 65dBa
  • Hearing impairment including damage to the inner ear, from 80dBa
  • Mechanical damage and complete deafness, from 120dBa upwards

And employers have a legal obligation under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005), to protect the hearing of their workforce.


Noise can be hard to avoid if you’re working in an environment with tools or machinery. While compressed air systems are not the main cause, their input still adds to the noise levels.

The first step is to conduct a noise assessment survey to measure which employees are at risk and where. There is a range of possible sources where high levels of noise can emit from, such as the motor, air-end, after-cooler, leaking pipes, and fittings.

Here are some ways to reduce the impact the noise from your compressor has on the workplace:

  • Repair, replace or upgrade noisy machinery. During routine servicing, engineers may raise issues that could be increasing sound levels. The compressor’s busiest parts can gradually wear and grind. As time goes on, the resulting noise can increase as it works to keep up with demands of the application. Whether it’s a rattle, a bang or a click, it’s best to not to ignore the noise!
  • Establish a buy quiet policy and company noise policy. Some stationary compressors have started to minimise the amount of moving parts. Many of CompAir‘s compressors including the Ultima and Quantima ranges, have very low noise levels compared to their size and power. This is a great benefit for when you want to use the compressors at point of use.
  • Consider the placement of your compressor; does you need to position in an area used a lot by workers? The sound we hear and the level at which we hear it is dependent on proximity to the source. Move your compressors to a dedicated room, sized for the system with surfaces to absorb or reflect sound. Then plan pipework to feed the application. Vibration through the piping can also impact the transfer of sound in a facility.
  • Or, you can place an acoustic barrier to between the source and the receiver to insulate part of the sound. To reduce the sound level even more, attach absorbents to the barrier such as polyurethane foam or heavier cloth applications.
  • It may appear obvious but PPE plays a key role. Everyone working in the environment should wear ear plugs or defenders.

But we don’t want to rely upon PPE! Over-prescribing hearing protection interferes with the ability communication and increases workplace isolation. It also can prevent the ability to hear other important sounds such as fire alarms, or vehicles reversing. The focus should be on reducing noise at work in-situ.

Reducing noise is not only important for health and safety, it creates a more enjoyable environment to work in. Find out how to put safety first for your complete compressed air system.

Need advice on reducing compressor noise?

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