Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Noise and vibration nuisances

Noise and vibration

Noise and vibration caused by your business activities could be considered a nuisance. If you fail to deal with a nuisance problem you could face legal action and a fine. Your local council could restrict or stop your business activities. You should find ways to limit noise and vibration to avoid causing a nuisance.

What you must do

Permit and exemption noise conditions

If you have a pollution prevention and control permit, a waste management licence or a waste exemption, it may contain conditions that control emissions, such as noise and vibration. You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit, licence or exemption. If you don't comply, your regulator:

  • in Northern Ireland the NIEA or your district council
  • in Scotland SEPA

can take enforcement action against you, such as issuing you with an enforcement notice or a suspension notice for breach of a condition. See our guideline: Environmental permits and licences - an overview.

Burglar alarms

If your business is in a designated alarm notification area you must:

  • register your burglar alarm with your local council
  • provide details of a person who holds the site's keys
  • make sure the key holder knows how to use the alarm system.

You could be fined if you don't register. Contact your local council to find out if your business is in an alarm notification area.

Find your local council

Prevent your burglar alarms from causing a nuisance by making sure that:

  • you have a maintenance contract and a callout agreement
  • the alarm automatically shuts down after no longer than 20 minutes.

Good practice

You should avoid or minimise noisy activities, particularly at night. Pay particular attention to noise and vibration created by your traffic movements, reversing alarms and deliveries. If you operate a night shift, move materials into the work area during the day or early evening.

Switch off radios and loudspeakers unless necessary.

Keep noisy activities and equipment away from areas where noise may cause a nuisance, eg your site boundary. You can use existing buildings to shield the noise source.

Use solid panelled fencing around your site instead of wire fencing. This can help to screen the source and reduce the level of noise from your site.

If possible, landscape your site boundary with mounds or raised borders to further reduce noise nuisance to your neighbours.

Ensure your buildings have adequate soundproofing and shut your doors and windows to reduce noise.

Stand outside your site boundary and listen for noise that neighbours may consider to be a nuisance. This is especially important when installing or moving equipment.

Vehicles and machinery

Service your vehicles and machinery regularly. Correctly maintained equipment will make less noise and will be less likely to break down.

Fit noise-reducing devices, such as silencers and baffles, to your machinery, or contain machinery within enclosures.

Use mains-generated electricity instead of diesel generators.

Reduce noise from your vehicles by:

  • setting up a one-way driving system on your site to minimise the use of vehicle reversing alarms, and consider using broadband reversing alarms that use white noise
  • imposing speed limits on your site
  • turning off engines when they are not in use
  • checking brakes are properly adjusted and tyres correctly inflated
  • not revving engines unnecessarily
  • only using horns in emergencies
  • replacing exhaust systems as soon as they become noisy
  • replacing vehicles with quieter models or electric or gas-powered alternatives.

When you replace vehicles or machinery, consider buying quieter alternatives. New equipment can introduce a noise problem. You should carry out a noise assessment before you install a new piece of equipment.

Loudspeakers

You must not use loudspeakers or public address (PA) systems in a public place for any kind of advertising, except from a vehicle selling fresh food, eg ice cream vans. In this case you may use a PA system only between the hours of 12.00 and 19.00.

If you want to use loudspeakers or a PA system outside of these hours, you must have consent from your local council. You must specify the time, date, location and duration of use in your application and submit it 21 days before it is needed.

Further information

DAERA: Noise

Scottish Government: Noise and nuisance

Return to Nuisances home page

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