Standard assessing the impact of industrial and commercial sound on residential communities published

17 November 2014

BSI, the business standards company, has recently revised BS 4142 Methods for rating and assessing industrial and commercial sound. It can be used for assessing how nearby residents and communities are affected by sound of a commercial or industrial nature. It determines sound levels for the purpose of investigating complaints. 

BS 4142 aims to offer consistency across varied practical situations, ranging from the noise of a single air-conditioning unit at a single workshop affecting a few people, to a large installation such as an oil refinery. It can also be used to assess sound at proposed new dwellings or premises used for residential purposes.

First published in 1967 and last revised in 1997, BS 4142  is the recognized standard in the UK for accurately assessing noise complaints. Without a consistent method, penalties could be incorrectly applied on industry. It also supports current UK planning guidance and Environment Agency guidance and has been extensively used in planning issues and public enquiries.

BS 4142 covers sound from:

  • Industrial and manufacturing processes
  • Fixed installations which comprise mechanical and electrical plant and equipment
  • Loading and unloading of goods and materials at industrial and/or commercial premises
  • Mobile plant and vehicles that is an intrinsic part of the overall sound emanating from premises or processes, such as from forklift trucks, or from train or ship movements on or around an industrial and/or commercial site

The standard also includes examples of different types of scenarios that may occur and need assessment. It does not include sound from the passage of vehicles on public roads and railway systems, certain recreational activities and entertainment.

BS 4142 was revised using a consensus-based approach with input from experts such as  ANC (Association of Noise Consultants), Defra (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) and IOA (Institute of Acoustics). It also included expertise across a wide range of industry already using the standard, including environmental health and environment agencies.

David Fatscher Head of Market Development for Sustainability at BSI said: “Sound that is emitted into the environment from commercial operations can have a direct impact on a residential area. Being able to ascertain the level of activity is the first step in curbing behaviour that falls beyond permissible levels for sound emissions. BS 4142 has a very long history and this latest revision means that the standard is up to date and accounts for the changes to instrumentation in acoustic standards.”

Some of the key changes:

  • Increased knowledge in instrumentation helps improve the final assessment and reduce uncertainty 
  • Aspects of the standard have been given clarification and guidance on applicability

Phil Dunbavin, Committee Chairman for BS 4142 said: "It has been fifteen years since the last revision of BS 4142, in which time the accumulated research from around the world that has been taken into account in this revision is vast, and that, together with the input of some eighty users of the standard at a workshop in Birmingham, has produced a significantly improved BS 4142. This revised standard should enable more consistent and better decision making by appropriately experienced users."