Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority


1.1 Overview

Where occupants can detect vibration in buildings, this may potentially impact on their quality of life or working efficiency. In contrast, people tolerate much higher vibration values in vehicles than in buildings.

Sources of vibration covered in this guideline include construction and excavation equipment, rail and road traffic, and industrial machinery. Low-frequency, airborne pressure waves emitted by some heavy vehicles, aircraft and machinery can also cause vibration in buildings. Some vibration sources give rise to audible effects such as structure-borne noise and secondary rattling of building elements or contents.

Individuals can detect building vibration values that are well below those that can cause any risk of damage to the building or its contents. The level of vibration that affects amenity is lower than that associated with building damage.

In keeping with its charter to protect the health and wellbeing of the community, DEC has developed this guideline to aid in protecting people from values of vibration above preferred and maximum values felt inside buildings. This guideline describes:

  • the characteristics of vibration and associated effects that can cause community disturbance and concern to people, in particular, the occupants of buildings
  • criteria defining values of vibration to protect amenity
  • procedures for the measurement and evaluation of vibration values and other associated emissions.

This guideline presents preferred and maximum vibration values and provides recommendations for measurement and evaluation techniques. It does not provide information on the 'motion sickness' effects of low-frequency vibration (i.e. below 1 Hz, usually encountered only in some forms of transportation) or occupational vibration within any workplace, which are separate issues administered by the SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000. Nor does it address:

  • vibration-induced damage to structures or building contents, which does not come under DEC's charter; guidance on this can be sought from the NSW Department of Primary Industries - Mineral Resources
  • blast-induced vibration effects, which are adequately addressed by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council guideline Technical basis for guidelines to minimise annoyance due to blasting overpressure and ground vibration (ANZECC 1990)
  • structure-borne noise effects, which are proposed to be addressed in DEC's new policy on rail noise currently being developed.

The preferred vibration criteria contained in this guideline are not mandatory limits but should be sought to be achieved through application of all feasible and reasonable mitigation measures.

1.2 Development of the guideline

This guideline has been developed to update the previous guideline (developed in the mid-1980s) in the light of advances in methods for assessing and measuring vibration. Australian and international standards, current scientific research and the practices of other regulating authorities were reviewed. A summary of the research findings and the technical basis for this guideline are contained in Appendices B and D.

Over the past ten or so years, ISO, British and Australian Standards for vibration evaluation and assessment have converged. BS 6472-1992,

Evaluation of human exposure to vibration in buildings (1 Hz to 80 Hz), ISO 2631.1-1997, Mechanical vibration and shock - Evaluation of human exposure to whole-body vibration - Part 1: General requirements, and ISO 2631.2-1989, Evaluation of human exposure to whole-body vibration - Part 2: Continuous and shock induced vibration in buildings (1-80 Hz), contain the most recent advances in vibration evaluation. This document draws upon similar background references to those upon which those standards are based. As BS 6472-1992 is due to be revised, this guideline can be considered interim until the revision is published. This document also references several Australian Standards for measurement techniques.

1.3 Additional features to the approach

This guideline is essentially the same as the previous guideline (based on the previous version of BS 6472), except for the following main differences:

  • The presentation of the criteria for continuous and impulsive vibration has been simplified from the format in the previous guideline.
  • This guideline addresses vibration along the x- and y-axes as well as along the z-axis. The previous guideline dealt with vibration only along the z-axis.
  • The guideline includes an approach for the assessment of intermittent vibration involving a 'vibration dose' concept. This approach can be used for evaluating and assessing vibration from a range of intermittent sources. These are potential sources of widespread disturbance in the community, and it is therefore important that appropriate techniques be provided for their assessment.
  • More guidance is given here on measurement techniques for vibration assessment.

1.4 When this guideline should be used and who should use it

This guideline is designed to be used in evaluating and assessing the effects on amenity of vibration emissions from industry, transportation and machinery. It also has a useful role in assisting planning decisions for proposed developments (e.g. setting conditions of consent). It is directed towards officers of the DEC and to proponents (and their consultants) of developments that require a DEC licence. Local councils and other regulatory authorities, planners, and others who are responsible for the evaluation or control of vibration emissions and their effects on the community will also benefit from the guideline.

This guideline is a useful reference:

  • during the land-use planning stage to reduce conflicts that vibration can cause, such as the determination of railway corridors and the design of building footings
  • in assessments of vibration impacts caused by the construction or operation of new developments (e.g. industrial or transport)
  • in assessments of the extent of any problem from an existing situation, and the necessity for implementation of a management plan to address and mitigate existing vibration.
Page last updated: 13 October 2016