Excessive Noise: Nuisance or Pollution?

Posted on 30 Aug 2019

I recently spoke with a local resident who has been staying in the same home for over 20 years. As the years progressed, development occurred in the area surrounding their home. This included a small shopping centre serving the local community. Due to electricity demands and lack of supply, the centre had installed generators to provide electricity when the grid goes out. The resident complained that the noise generated is unbearable and wanted to know if they have grounds to request the company to address and minimise the noise generated.


In South Africa, unwanted noise is seen as a pollution source and therefore limits have been set out with specific regard to noise volumes. The law makes clear provision for limits toward noise with respect to annoyance and speech. The applicable standard in this case is the South African National Standard (SANS) 10103, the latest edition of which is SANS 10103:2008 – The Measurement and Rating of Environmental Noise with Respect to Annoyance and to Speech Communication.


The advice provided to the resident was to go the route of Ward Councillor assistance, however the actual noise should be measured to determine if the generators noise is in excess of the limits. This is usually done by a company that can provide a report on the noise measured with a calibrated noise meter. This provides pertinent proof of noise limit exceedances if any. It was also suggested to try a noise level meter app on his smartphone to obtain an indicative reading of the noise generated. These are however not always accurate and can therefore not generally be used as scientific proof. This will however provide him with a basis for further investigation.


SANS 10103 classifies areas (districts) as per the use of the area. The classification of the area (district) where he stays is classified under category C (Urban) or either D (Urban with one or more of the following: workshops; business premises; and main roads) with the limits for noise being as follows: Category C: 55 decibels during the day, and 45 during the night; Category D: 60 decibels during the day and 50 during the night.


Therefore, should the sound measured be in excess of these limits, action could be required by the company to reduce the volume of the generators. ENVASS can conduct various environmental noise studies and provides pertinent results on compliance to the limits. Should these limits be exceeded, ENVASS provides mitigation measures to ensure that communities are protected from excessive noise. Contact us for more information or a quote:


T: 012 460-9768


E: info@envass.co.za