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BS 4142:2014

Methods for rating and assessing industrial and commercial sound

BS4142 gives a method for rating sound from industrial and commercial sources affecting people inside or outside dwellings or premises used for residential purposes. An initial estimate of the significance of the sound from the industrial/commercial nature can be assessed by subtracting the measured background noise level from the rating level (this is the specific sound level of the source with any corrections or penalties for distinctive acoustic characteristics). Typically, the greater the difference, the greater the magnitude of the impact.

  • A difference of around +10dB or more is likely to be an indication of a significant adverse impact, depending on the context.
  • A difference of around +5dB is likely to be an indication of an adverse impact, depending on the context.
  • The lower the rating level is relative to the measured background sound level, the less likely it is that the specific sound source will have an adverse impact or significant adverse impact.

Where the rating level does not exceed the background sound level, this is an indication of the specific sound source having a low impact, depending on the context.

Feature (Perceptibility)












Other Character

A 3dB penalty can be used if the sound has any other distinctive qualities.


A 3dB penalty can be used if the sound has on/off conditions.

The Noise Level

The background noise level at the assessment location is also measured at a time when the specific noise source is not operating.

The noise level of the industrial plant, referred to as the specific noise level, is measured at the assessment location, normally outside a nearby residence.

Distinguishable Acoustic Features

If there are distinguishable acoustic features present in the specific noise level, such as hums, whistles, bangs, clicks, clatters or thumps; or the noise is irregular enough to attract attention, then a 5 dB penalty is added to the specific noise level in order to obtain the "rating" level.

General Guidance

As general guidance, if the rating level is more than 10 dB above the background level, this is an indication that complaints are likely.

If the rating level is 5 dB above the background, this is of 'marginal significance' and complaints are possible. Hence, the lower the difference between the rating and background levels, the less likelihood of complaints.

However, many Local Authorities suggest their own recommended level differences irrespective of the guidance contained in the standard.


We carry out assessments of industrial noise using BS 4142

Noise Control

We then offer cost effective noise control solutions and designs.

No Complaints

Minimise noise reaching nearby residents, and stop complaints!

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