When Noise Levels are Excessive in the Workplace
Noise, or unwanted sound, is one of the most universal occupational health problems in the industry. Learn how to effectively measure the volume of noise.
Every year, over twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise levels in their workplace. You’re probably not surprised since those working with manufacturing equipment, power generators, aircraft, heavy equipment, saws, drills, emergency vehicles, and work on construction sites and oil and gas drilling sites are all frequently exposed to excessive noise levels.
When noise levels are not safe, hearing loss will creep in for your employers and high fines will reap the benefits. In 2017, U.S. businesses paid around $1.5 million in penalties for not employing adequate safety measures to protect workers from high noise levels.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Hearing damage can be prevented, but once the permanent noise-induced hearing loss occurs, it cannot be cured or reversed. Hearing loss usually occurs gradually, so you or your workers may not realize it is happening until it is too late.
One of the best ways to reduce exposure to hazardous noise in the workplace is to plan for potential exposure before activities start, measure the noise levels and follow OSHA requirements for noise and hearing conservation.
Hearing conservation programs strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves, per OSHA CFR 1910.95.
What’s required per OSHA’s hearing conservation program?
OSHA’s hearing conservation program is designed to protect workers with significant occupational noise exposures from hearing impairment by accurately identifying employees exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels (dB) averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).
When noise exposure levels equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A scale, employers are required to provide hearing protectors. Hearing protectors or personal protection equipment (PPE) are required:
- For any period exceeding 6 months from the time they were first exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dB or above until they receive their baseline audiograms if these tests are delayed due to mobile test van scheduling
- If they have incurred standard threshold shifts that demonstrate they are susceptible to noise; and
- If they are exposed to noise over the permissible exposure limit of 90 dB over an 8-hour TWA.
Employees are entitled to observe monitoring procedures and must receive notification of the results of exposure monitoring. Employers are required to share the noise levels with their employees and may do so by using a method of their choice.
How loud is too loud?
If a normal conversation is measured at 60 dB and a ringing telephone is measured at 80 dB, most of the items used to work may cause hearing loss. Per the CDC, the dB of these items are:
- Power lawn mower: 90 dB
- Belt sander: 93 dB
- Tractor: 96 dB
- Hand drill: 98 dB
- Impact wrench: 103 dB
- Bulldozer: 105 dB
- Spray painter: 105 dB
- Continuous miner: 108 dB
- Chainsaw: 110 dB
- Hammer drill: 114 dB
- Pneumatic percussion drill: 119 dB
- Ambulance siren: 120 dB
Measuring the noise volume in the workplace is critical – especially when working with any of the tools above. Workplaces can do their part by continually displaying and measuring decibel levels in such a way that is easy for workers to recognize when hearing protection is required.
Continuously measure decibel levels with Decibel Meter Signs from Safetycal!