Noise Control Ordinance
The purpose of the Noise Control Ordinance Cap.400 (NCO) is to provide statutory controls to restrict and reduce the nuisance caused by environmental noise.
Details of the ordinance and related regulations can be found in the "Bilingual Laws Information System" website of the Department of Justice at https://www.elegislation.gov.hk.
The NCO deals with the following forms of noise:
- noise from domestic premises and public places (often referred to as general neighbourhood noise);
- noise from construction activities (including piling);
- noise from places other than domestic premises, public places or construction sites (for example, noise from industrial or commercial premises);
- noise from intruder alarm systems (installed in any premises or vehicles);
- noise from individual items of plant or equipment (referred to in the Ordinance as Product Noise, for example, noise from hand-held breaker and air compressor); and
- noise emission from motor vehicles (requiring noise emission from motor vehicles to comply with stringent international standards on first registration in Hong Kong).
The Ordinance enables Regulations and Technical Memoranda to be made which introduce detailed control criteria, measurement procedures and other technical matters. The provisions of the Ordinance are enforced by the Director of Environmental Protection (who has been appointed as the Noise Control Authority) and the Hong Kong Police Force.
The following types of noise is controlled under other legislation :
- Occupational noise (that is, noise generated inside a factory or other industrial undertaking, which affects employees in that work-place). This type of noise is subject to control under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59), the enforcement of which is carried out by the Labour Department. (For details, please click here)
- Aircraft Noise. This type of noise is controlled under the Civil Aviation (Aircraft Noise) Ordinance (Cap. 312), Civil Aviation (Aircraft Nose)(Certification) Regulations and Civil Aviation (Aircraft Noise)(Aircraft Classes) Notice. The enforcement of these legislations is carried out by the Civil Aviation Department. (For details, please click here)
The main provisions of the NCO are summarized in the following sections. The numbers in brackets following the headings refer to the relevant section numbers in the Ordinance.
Noise from domestic premises or public places includes noise which is produced in domestic premises by sources such as television sets, air-conditioners or dogs, and noise produced in public places by sources such as radios, hawkers or loudspeakers. This type of noise is commonly described as neighbourhood noise.
The following are some examples of noise from domestic premises and public places :
[Image of samples of noise from domestic premises (e.g. television sets, air conditioners or dogs)]
[Image of samples of noise from domestic premises (e.g. radios, karaoke)]
[Image of samples of noise from domestic premises (e.g. mahjong playing)]
[Image of samples of noise from public places (e.g. loudspeakers)]
[Image of samples of noise from public places (e.g. hawkers)]
Both sections 4 and 5 came into operation on 1 November 1989.
Section 4 of the Ordinance is a general provision to control noise of this nature which is causing annoyance to any person at night (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) or on a general holiday.
Section 5 of the Ordinance provides control over particular noise sources (in domestic premises or public places) at any time of the day or night. These sources are animals and birds, musical instruments, loudspeakers, games, trades or businesses and air conditioners.
It should be noted that the term 'domestic premises' applies to individual dwellings or household units and not to an entire building, which may have mixed commercial and residential uses or even industrial activities on lower floors. Noise from the non-residential parts of such buildings is controlled under section 13 of the Ordinance.
The nature of the noise sources covered by these provisions in sections 4 and 5 of the ordinance is such that it is not possible to specify fixed acceptable noise levels or noise measurement procedures to be used in assessing the acceptability of the noise. As is the case in other countries, noise from domestic premises and public places is to be responsively dealt with by the police on a reasonableness approach.
Under the Ordinance, construction activities are grouped into two categories and are controlled by means of a system of Construction Noise Permits (CNP):
- general construction work (for example, excavation, renovation, road work); and
- percussive piling (for example, piling by means of a hydraulic hammer as a drop hammer).
This photograph shows piling work in progress :
[Photo of piling work]
This photo shows road work, which is a kind of general construction work :
[Photo of road work, a kind of general construction work]
Each of these categories is controlled by means of a system of Construction Noise Permits, as described below.
The carrying out of general construction work using powered mechanical equipment during the restricted hours, that is between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. or at any time on a general holiday (including Sunday), is prohibited under the Ordinance unless a valid Construction Noise Permit is in force.
During the restricted hours in Designated Areas, the use of specified powered mechanical equipment (for example, hand-held breakers and dump truck) and/or the carrying out of the prescribed construction activities (for example, erection or dismantling of formwork and hammering) is subject to more stringent control. The same system of Construction Noise Permits for controlling of powered mechanical equipment is used. The Designated Areas, referred to as densely populated built up areas, are defined under the Noise Control (Construction Work Designated Areas) Notice.
The carrying out of percussive piling is prohibited between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and on holidays. A valid Construction Noise Permit issued by the Environmental Protection Department is required for the carrying out of percussive piling during the permitted hours. The permitted hours generally falls into the period of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays not being a public holiday including Sunday. Depending on the nature of the noise sensitive receivers, the Construction Noise Permit may allow carrying out percussive piling of a total duration of 3, 5 or 12 hours during the permitted hours. The use of noisy diesel, pneumatic and steam hammers for percussive piling is banned in built-up areas surrounded by noise sensitive uses from 1 October 1999.
This chart summaries the statutory controls on noise from various construction activities at different times of the day :
[Chart of statutory control summary on noise from various construction activities at different times of the day]
An application for a Construction Noise Permit for the two categories of works must be made to the Noise Control Authority in the respective prescribed form and accompanied by a cheque of the prescribed fee. In considering applications for carrying out general construction work and percussive piling the Authority will assess the impact of the noise generated by the equipment at any Noise Sensitive Receiver (such as domestic premises) in the vicinity in accordance with the assessment procedures contained in the following Technical Memoranda :
- Technical Memorandum on Noise from Percussive Piling,
- Technical Memorandum on Noise from Construction Work other than Percussive Piling, and
- Technical Memorandum on Noise from Construction Work in Designated Areas
The picture below shows the front covers of the above three Technical Memoranda :
A Construction Noise Permit, with appropriate conditions, will be issued if EPD is satisfied that the noise which will be generated will comply with the requirements stipulated in the said Technical Memoranda.
The conditions of a Construction Noise Permit for the carrying out of percussive piling are subject to appeal. Details of the appeal mechanism will be covered later. For an immediate access to details of the appeal mechanism, please click here.
This kind of noise is also called industrial/commercial noise. Examples are noise from factories, ventilating systems of restaurants, noise from car repairing in garages and so on.
These photographs show some examples of industrial/commercial noise :
[Photos of industrial/commercial noise example]
Noise from places such as industrial, commercial, trade or business premises is controlled by means of Noise Abatement Notices which may be served on owners or occupiers of premises if the noise emitted:
- does not comply with objective technical criteria in the form of Acceptable Noise Levels as set out in the Technical Memorandum for the Assessment of Noise from Places other than Domestic Premises, Public Places or Construction Sites;
- is a source of annoyance to any person (other than a person in the place from which the noise is emanating) in any place considered to be a noise sensitive receiver in the Technical Memorandum mentioned in paragraph (a); or
- does not comply with any standard or limit contained in any Regulations which may be made in future.
The following shows the cover page of the Technical Memorandum for the Assessment of Noise from Places other than Domestic Premises, Public Places or Construction Site. For details, please click on the cover.
A Noise Abatement Notice may require the owner or occupier to bring his noise emissions into a state of compliance by certain date and non-compliance with such a Notice will be an offence. Details of the appeal mechanism will be covered later. For an immediate access to details of the appeal mechanism, please click here.
It should be noted that there is no requirement for industry in general to achieve the Acceptable Noise Levels (ANL) immediately, but to bring the noise level to or below the ANL by the date specified on the Noise Abatement Notice. The EPD will, in practice, respond to complaints lodged by members of the public and compliance with the Acceptable Noise Levels will be required only after a Noise Abatement Notice has been served.
The following cartoon shows the annoying nature of car alarms:
[Image of annoying nature of car alarms]
Intruder alarm systems for premises such as shops can be equally annoying.
Under the provisions in section 13A and 13B of the NCO, intruder alarm system installed in any premises and vehicle shall not sound for more than 15 minutes and 5 minutes respectively after being triggered. In addition, the vehicle alarms shall not sound unless the vehicles are being tampered with. The controllers or registered owners have to ensure their Intruder Alarm Systems comply with the requirements.
Sections 14 to 17 of the NCO stipulates that it is an offence to manufacture, import, sell or hire a prescribed product if it is intended for use in Hong Kong and does not comply with noise standards set out in the Regulations. It will also be an offence to use such a product.
At present, the Noise Control (Hand Held Percussive Breakers) Regulations and the Noise Control (Air Compressors) Regulations stipulate that only the handheld breakers and air compressors complying with the noise emission standards shall be allowed to be imported, manufactured or supplied for use in Hong Kong and be attached with a Noise Emission Label before its usage.
An application for such a label must be made to EPD in the prescribed form and accompanied by a cheque of the prescribed fee. A Noise Emission Label will be issued if EPD is satisfied that the relevant noise emission standard has been complied with. This would in effect phase out the particularly noisy equipment items and minimize the noise disturbances emanated from the work sites.
The following photographs show two Noise Emission Labels: one for a hand-held pneumatic breaker and one for an air-compressor:
[Photo of Noise Emission Label - hand-held pneumatic breaker]
[Photo of Noise Emission Label - air compressor]
Noise Emission from motor vehicles including motor cycles is under control and has to meet specific noise emission standards for registration purpose.
The provisions in the Noise Control (Motor Vehicles) Regulation, made under section 27 of the Ordinance, deal with the control of mechanical noise emanating from motor vehicles. The Government will continue to tighten the emission standard in step with other developed countries such as the European Union.
The Ordinance provides for a statutory right of appeal in respect of certain decisions or requirements of the Authority to ensure that the provisions of the Ordinance are applied in a fair and reasonable manner. An appeal may be lodged against any decision or requirement of the Authority relating to:
- Construction Noise Permits for the carrying out of percussive piling;
- Noise Abatement Notices; and
- notices in connection with the testing of products.
The Appeal Board may confirm, reverse or vary the decision or requirement of the Authority and may also make an award of costs involved in the appeal as appropriate. In the case of appeals against Noise Abatement Notices, the Notice to which the appeal relates will normally be suspended in its operation until such time as the appeal is disposed of.
The Chairman of the Appeal Board and the persons of the panel are appointed by Chief executive of HKSAR. Under the Noise Control Ordinance, the Appeal Board shall, however, not at any time consist of a majority of persons who are public officers.
Any person who commits an offence under the Ordinance shall be liable to the following maximum penalties:
[Table of maximum penalties]
Enforcement Activities and Prosecution Statistics under Noise Control Ordinance