• Volunteer Fire Brigades zone representative raises issue of deafening pump on appliance on behalf of local Member Brigade
  • AVBFB State Committee determines this is a common problem across brigades and appliances that needs united advocacy
  • If your Brigade has appliances and/or equipment that is unacceptably loud, let us know ASAP so we can help identify common design faults and work with government to find and implement effective solutions (email us now comms@avbfb.org.au)

Zone 2 Midwest/Gascoyne committee member Alison Lloyd explained to the recent Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) State Committee workshop and meeting weekend that a local Brigade had asked the Association to help it with a long-term problem.

As readers can see from the photos below, the pump on the Brigade’s 2.4 is unacceptably loud – registering 119 dB at the operator’s position and between 108 and 109 dB a couple of metres back.

Sponsor's message

For those who aren’t familiar with noise levels, the illustration from a submission to an inquiry by the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs in 2010 shows exposure to noise at 110 dB for 15 minutes or for less than 1 minute at 119 dB (which is more than 5 times louder than a Jet taking off at 25m) can permanently damage a person’s hearing.

Noise levels chart from APH report Figure by Australian Hearing, provided in DOHA, Submission 54, p. 16

While noise the most obvious risk our volunteers face when doing what they do for WA, long-term hearing loss is a huge issue for those who suffer it. More acutely, short term exposure to excessively loud sounds can obviously lead to miscommunication between volunteers, lack of environmental awareness (eg. sirens, falling trees, aerial appliances) and premature mental exhaustion.

Worksafe WA’s “Managing Noise at workplaces” Code of Practise says it this way:

“Not only does workplace noise cause deafness, it can lead to increased absenteeism and employee turnover, as well as lowered work performance. It can also contribute to workplace injuries and accidents.

Sponsor's message

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a major compensable industrial disease that entails substantial economic costs.

Noise-induced hearing loss cannot be reversed or cured. People suffering from NIHL often have communication and personal relationship difficulties. They may face social isolation and reduced quality of life. Family and friends are often affected.”

That document defines “excessive noise” as:

“Excessive noise means noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise set in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations or by the workplace’s noise control policy, whichever is the lower.”

The exposure standard for noise set in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations is determined by a formula which provides the following table of equivalent sound levels and exposure times:

Noise Level dB(A) Exposure Time
85 8 hours
88 4 hours
91 2 hours
94 1 hour
97 30 mins
100 15 mins
103 7.5 mins


Importantly, the Worksafe WA Code of Conduct explains that these exposure standards are to be “measured at the position of the person’s ear without taking into account any protection which may be provided to the person by personal hearing protectors.

And comes with the following note:

“The 85 dB(A) exposure standard for noise in Western Australia is legally the maximum acceptable exposure level for noise at the workplace. Workplace noise exposure levels therefore must not exceed 85 dB(A), and should be kept below that level where practicable.

As a result of the work of the State Committee on the weekend, we have already offered to work with DFES to identify noise level issues across Brigades and appliances/equipment and will ensure all that is reasonably possible will be done as soon as possible to protect our amazing volunteers from this risk.

We will of course, keep everyone informed of the progress we make in this regard but we need your help to identify where the problem is which will allow us to prioritise solutions for the appliances and equipment that affects the most number of our volunteers.

So to help us help you, if your Brigade has a noise issue with regard to any appliance or equipment, send us an email (comms@avbfb.org.au) now with the details and try to include some photos – preferably with a sound meter showing the levels, but at least a thorough description of the equipment and issue.

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