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Noise level regulations - Joseph Grech

The leader of the Times of Malta (July 25) on noise level regulations makes interesting reading. On the surface, the question of noise regulation seems a complex one. We read that the environment authority has assigned 45dB as a one-size-fits-all noise level tolerance figure.

One has to point out that rock cutting would involve 70, 80, 90dB or even higher noise levels. So should we ban rock cutting because it is noisier than 45dB? No. Rock cutting might take a week or two and then it would be over. During such activity however, one would expect wood hoarding to surround the plot prior to the activity taking place. Such a measure would mitigate the noise created to the nearby and not-so-nearby neighbours. This is where Malta fails miserably. The third person, in this case the neighbour, has no voice against the almighty building contractor and, by and large, individuals and even whole groups have been ignored and trampled upon by successive governments. The reason is simple. It is well known that a building contractor renders more milk to a political party (or parties) than an average citizen.

Keep all yourprofit but keep all your noise

In judging unwanted noise one has to take into account whether such nuisance is experienced during daytime or night time or whether our laws declare specific hours as silent hours during the course of the day.

So it cannot be a question of 45dB as the table below confirms. A 45dB noise level might in many instances turn out to be too high especially if the victims happen to be senior citizens.

This brings me to the subject of 24/7 noise from refrigeration equipment. It is customary in the case of some convenience stores and supermarkets to go for remote condensing units and compressors. There is nothing wrong in this so long as such outlets are properly designed for this purpose.

Effectively this means that the neighbour residing back-to-back with the store retains the same level of noise before such a store was created. It is not the duty of the back-to-back neighbour to receive noise, thereby sharing their yard with the convenience store. The same applies to the rest of the street. If it turns out that the store is unable to keep the remote refrigeration noise from bothering the neighbours it has only one choice: forget about remote condensing units and compressors and concentrate on fridges with built-in compressors similar to the ones at our homes but possibly larger to serve the shop.

Otherwise, such a store must have an adequate open space to set up remote units with the proviso that noise generated would not spill beyond such space whether the equipment is on or off. Such a store must keep any noise generated to itself not share it with the neighbours. The latter do not reap any profit from the store’s activity. So the motto is: keep all your profit but keep all your noise. The table crashes the absolute 45dB myth.

For a bedroom during night time, for example, the noise level should not exceed 25dB. Lack of proper sleep leads to irritability of the sufferer with further future health consequences. The table tells it all.

Level (dB) Effect
120-140 Hearing impairment  
70-85 Hearing impairment dependent on exposure time
55 Serious annoyance
35 Communication disturbance
30 Sleep disturbance

Joseph Grech is a school teacher by profession.

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