Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Prevent nuisances from noise at construction sites

Noise and noise nuisance at construction sites

Your business could create noise in many ways. Sources of noise include machinery, vehicles and loud music.

Your activities could also create vibration. The definition of noise nuisance often includes vibration and noise and vibration are often controlled at the same time.

What you must do

Nuisance

If noise from your work is found to be causing a nuisance to the surrounding community, your local council can limit or even stop you from working. They can restrict:

  • the type of machinery you use
  • your working hours
  • noise levels emitted from your premises.

Failure to address a noise problem could result in legal action and a fine.

Noise, odour and other nuisances

Prohibition notices

Your local council also operates a system for controlling noise from construction activities that can be used even if a 'nuisance', as defined above, has not been caused.

If your local council believes that your works are creating an unreasonable level of noise, it can serve you with a prohibition notice.

In Scotland, this is known as a section 60 prohibition notice.

In Northern Ireland, this is known as an Article 40 prohibition notice.

This notice sets out requirements that you must comply with, including:

  • the type of plant or machinery to use
  • limits on hours of working
  • maximum noise levels.

If you do not comply with a prohibition notice you could face a fine. You can appeal the notice to the Magistrates Court in Northern Ireland or the Sheriff Court in Scotland.

Prior consent

You can apply to your local council before you start work for consent, which allows for the noise made by your construction activities.

In Scotland, this is known as a section 61 consent.

In Northern Ireland, this is known as an Article 41 consent.

Your local council must give you consent if it considers that your proposals are reasonable and, if you act in accordance with your application, it would not serve you with a prohibition notice.

Your consent application must contain details of:

  • the work you want to undertake
  • the location of your works
  • your proposed working hours
  • the method of work
  • the steps you will take to minimise noise.

If you do not undertake your works in the way that the consent describes, your local council can issue you with a prohibition notice.

Protecting your workforce

Loud noise can cause irreversible hearing damage. You have a duty to protect the hearing of your employees.

Health and Safety Executive: Noise

Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland

Your business could create noise in many ways. Sources of noise include machinery, vehicles and loud music.

Your activities could also create vibration. The definition of noise nuisance often includes vibration, and noise and vibration are often controlled at the same time.

If noise from your work is found to be causing a nuisance to the surrounding community, your local council can limit or even stop you from working. They can restrict:

  • the type of machinery you use
  • your working hours
  • noise levels emitted from your premises.

Failure to address a noise problem could result in legal action and a fine.

Good practice

Instead of obtaining a formal consent, you could ask the local council what they would consider to be reasonable. If you plan these requirements into your works, you are less likely to be issued with a prohibition notice.

Reduce noise from your equipment and vehicles

  • Service your vehicles and machinery regularly. Well maintained equipment will make less noise and is also less likely to break down.
  • Fit noise-reducing devices, such as silencers and baffles, to your machinery.
  • When you replace equipment, consider purchasing quieter alternatives. New equipment can introduce a noise problem when one did not exist previously. You should carry out a noise assessment when you install a new piece of equipment.
  • Use mains generated electricity instead of diesel generators.
  • Minimise the use of vehicle reversing alarms. For example, set up a one-way driving system on your site. Consider fitting a broadband reversing alarm, as this can reduce the level of noise that is generated on site.

Reduce noise from your vehicles by:

  • turning off engines when they are not in use
  • checking the brakes are properly adjusted and don't squeal
  • not revving the engine unnecessarily
  • only using the horn in emergencies
  • replacing exhaust systems as soon as they become noisy
  • replacing vehicles with electric or gas powered alternatives.

Working hours

  • Your contract may specify acceptable working hours and levels of noise. If it does, adhere to them.
  • In residential areas, avoid working or receiving deliveries during unsociable hours. For example, you could work between 8am and 4pm.
  • Pneumatic breakers create high levels of noise and will generate complaints from the public. If your site is close to sensitive areas such as housing or hospitals, try to limit your working hours, particularly for surface works, to the day-time.

Managing the impact of your works on the public

  • Before you start work, contact, in association with the client and main contractor, local residents to let them know what you will be doing. This can help to reduce hostility towards the works and will provide an opportunity for you to address the concerns of local people.
  • Develop a neighbourhood comment and complaint procedure for recording and dealing with complaints from local residents.
  • When operating in residential areas, display project contact details in prominent locations. This will give local residents a point of contact and should allow you address any nuisance issues that may arise.
  • Consider using solid panelled fencing around your site instead of wire matrix fences. This can help to reduce noise from your site and can also reduce wind-blown litter.
  • Before you start work, identify any site boundaries that may be sensitive to noise or vibration. In your method statements, include actions that you need to take to reduce noise at sensitive locations.
  • Screening plants used to remove sands or gravels from bentonite, or centrifuge systems used to remove water from slurry, can both create high levels of noise. Position these systems as far away as possible from housing.
  • Permanently running generators on sites that are close to local housing can cause a nuisance to residents. Use mains power in preference to diesel generators where possible.
  • When running generators and compressors, ensure that access doors are closed. This will reduce the noise level.
  • Turn off vehicle engines when not in use. This will reduce noise and emissions.

Liaison with your Environmental Health Officer

  • Keep your environmental health officer informed of your work's progress, the dates and times of any particularly disruptive activities and the contact details of a named person.
  • Encourage your local environmental health officer to contact you with any public complaints that arise. This will give you the opportunity to address those complaints before formal action is taken against you.

Noise monitoring

  • Monitor background noise at noise sensitive locations, for example, residential areas, before your works begin and periodically during the contract.
  • Only use monitoring equipment that has a current calibration certificate.
  • You should include additional information with the data you collect, including records of the date, time, location and the person who undertook the monitoring, as well as a description of the activities being undertaken at the time.
  • You should only allow people who hold a noise competency certificate to monitor noise.
  • 'BS5228: Control of Noise and Vibration on Construction and Open Sites' will help you to estimate the noise your works will make. You can order it from the British Standards Institution on telephone number 020 8996 7000.

Further information

Considerate Constructors Scheme

Scotland: Planning Advice Note 56 - Planning and Noise

Scottish Government: Noise

You may find the following British Standards useful:

British Standard BS4142 - Method for rating industrial noise affecting mixed residential and industrial areas

British Standard BS5228 - Noise and vibration control on construction and open sites

British Standard BS6472 - Guide to evaluation of human exposure to vibration in buildings

British Standard BS7385 - Evaluation and measurement for vibration in buildings

These are available from British Standards Online. You can buy copies of the full standards or view summaries by registering on their website.

British Standards Online

SEE ALSO: Dust from construction sites

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