Occupational noise

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Occupational noise is the amount of acoustic energy received by an employee's auditory system when they are working in the industry. Occupational noise, or industrial noise, is often a term used in occupational safety and health, as sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage.

"Twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Last year, U.S. business paid more than $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting workers from noise." - OSHA[1]

Occupational noise is considered an occupational hazard traditionally linked to loud industries such as ship-building, mining, railroad work, welding, and construction, but can be present in any workplace where hazardous noise is present.

Regulation[edit]

In the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) work together to provide standards and regulations for noise in the workplace.[2]

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have all set standards on hazardous occupational noise in their respective industries. Each industry is different, as workers' tasks and equipment differ, but most regulations agree that noise becomes hazardous when it exceeds 85 decibels, for an 8-hour time exposure (typical work shift). This relationship between allotted noise level and exposure time is known as an Exposure action value (EAV) or Permissible exposure limit (PEL). The EAV or PEL can be seen as equations which manipulate the allotted exposure time according to the intensity of the industrial noise. This equation works as an inverse, exponential, relationship. As the industrial noise intensity increases, the allotted exposure tie, to still remain safe, decreases.

The above calculations of PEL and EAV are based on measurements taken to determine the intensity of that particular industrial noise. A-weighted measurements are commonly used to determine noise levels that can cause harm to the human ear. There are also special exposure meters available that integrate noise over a period of time to give an Leq value (equivalent sound pressure level), defined by standards.

Risks of Occupational Hearing Loss[edit]

Temporary hearing loss after loud noise exposure. If such exposure is long enough, this temporary threshold shift may become permanent.[3]

Occupational noise, if experienced repeatedly, at high intensity, for an extended period of time, can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) which is then classified as occupational hearing loss.

Noise, in the context of industrial noise, is hazardous to a person's hearing because of its loud intensity through repeated long-term exposure. In order for noise to cause hearing impairment for the worker, the noise has to be close enough, loud enough, and sustained long enough to damage the hair cells in the auditory system. Please see Occupational hearing loss or Noise-induced hearing loss for more information regarding the physiology of hearing loss. These factors have been taken into account by the governing occupational health and safety organization to determine the unsafe noise exposure levels and durations for their respective industries.

Noise can also affect the safety of the employee and others. Noise can be a causal factor in work accidents as it may mask hazards and warning signals and impede concentration. High intensity noise interferes with vital workplace communication which increases the chance of accidents and decreases productivity.[4]

Noise may also act synergistically with other hazards to increase the risk of harm to workers. In particular, toxic materials (e.g. some solvents, metals, asphyxiants and pesticides) have some ototoxic properties that may affect hearing function.

Modern thinking in occupational safety and health further identifies noise as hazardous to workers' safety and health. This hazard is experienced in various places of employment and through a variety of sources.

Noise, in the context of industrial noise, is hazardous to a persons hearing because of its loud intensity through repeated long-term exposure. In order for Noise to cause Hearing impairment for the worker, the noise has to be close enough, loud enough and the listener has to be exposed for long enough. These factors have been taken into account by the governing occupational health and safety organizations as they determine the unsafe noise exposure levels and durations for their respective industries.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have all set standards on hazardous occupational noise in their respective industries.[5] Each industry is different, as workers tasks and equipment differ, but most regulations agree that noise becomes hazardous when it exceeds 85 Decibel, for an 8-hour exposure (typical work shift). This relationship between allotted noise level and exposure time is known as an Exposure action value (EAV) or Permissible exposure limit (PEL). The EAV or PEL can be seen as equations which manipulate the allotted exposure time according to the intensity of the industrial noise. This equation works as an inverse relationship. As the industrial noise intensity increases, the allotted exposure time, to still remain safe, decreases.

These above calculations of PEL and EAV are based on measurements taken to determine the intensity of that particular industrial noise. A-weighted measurements are commonly used to determine noise levels that can cause harm to the human ear. There are also special exposure meters available that integrate noise over a period of time to give an Leq value (equivalent sound pressure level), defined by standards.

Reduction[edit]

Hierarchy of Controls guideline

There are several ways to limit your exposure to hazardous occupational noise. The hierarchy of controls[6] is a guideline for reducing hazardous noise. First, the company can eliminate the noise source. If the noise source cannot be eliminated, the company must try to reduce the noise with alternative methods. This process is called acoustic quieting.

Acoustic quieting is the process of making machinery quieter by damping vibrations to prevent them from reaching the observer. The company can isolate the certain piece of machinery by placing materials on the machine or in between the machine and the worker to decreases the signal intensity that reaches the worker's ear.

To decrease an employee's exposure to hazardous noise, the company can also take administrative control by limiting the employee's exposure time. This can be done by changing work shifts and switching employees out from the noise exposure area. Lastly, to decrease occupational noise exposure, hearing protection should be used. There are several types of earplugs and earmuffs that can be used to attenuate the noise to a safe level.

For a more detailed description of the hierarchy of controls, please see Occupational hearing loss.

Initiatives[edit]

Since the hazards of occupational noise exposure were realized, programs and initiatives such as the US Buy Quiet program have been set up to regulate or discourage noise exposure. The Buy Quiet initiative promotes the purchase of quieter tools and equipment and encourages manufacturers to design quieter machines.[7] Additionally, the Safe-In-Sound Award was created to recognize successes in hearing loss prevention programs or initiatives.[8]

See also[edit]

General:

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Safety and Health Topics | Occupational Noise Exposure | Occupational Safety and Health Administration". www.osha.gov. Retrieved 2016-11-08.
  2. ^ "Occupational Noise Exposure: Standards". Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  3. ^ Izmerov, Nikolai; Suvorov, Herman; Prokopenko, Ludmila (2001). "Chapter 4. Occupational hearing loss". The man and the noise (Человек и шум) (in Russian). Moscow: ГЕОТАР-МЕД. p. 103. ISBN 5-9231-0057-6.
  4. ^ "Effects of Noise on The Individual in the Workplace | Sound Control". soundcontroltech.com. Retrieved 2017-05-21.
  5. ^ "Criteria for Recommended Standard: Occupational Noise Exposure" (PDF). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  6. ^ "CDC - Hierarchy of Controls - NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic". www.cdc.gov. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  7. ^ "Buy Quiet". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  8. ^ "Safe-in-Sound:Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award". Safe-in-Sound. Retrieved 2016-07-14.

External links[edit]