Noise pollution is ubiquitous in the industrial sector. Many manufacturing processes, machinery, and equipment produce extreme levels of noise, endangering the physical and mental health of everyone constantly exposed.
According to a study on hazardous workplace noise, over 22 million workers in the industrial sector are exposed to potentially damaging noise levels, accounting for 17 percent of the total U.S. workforce. High-risk occupations constantly exposed to noise pollution include welders, metalworkers, motor vehicle operators, and those in repair and maintenance.
Meanwhile, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends keeping noise levels below 85 dB to minimize the chances of hearing loss. As a rule of thumb, having to raise your voice to speak to someone three feet away is a telltale sign that noise levels exceed the 85 dB threshold.
Therefore, companies should prioritize implementing industrial noise pollution control measures to ensure the protection of all workers and enhance their productivity.
This blog will discuss the following:
Impact of Industrial Noise Pollution on Employee Welfare
Constant exposure to loud noises above 85 dB within an 8-hour shift can be detrimental to workers’ health as excessive noise can kill nerve endings inside the inner ear. Prolonged exposure will result in more dead nerve endings and lead to noise-induced permanent hearing loss.
Aside from hearing loss, exposure to loud noises can also impact worker health in other ways. One 2004 study found that industrial noise pollution caused hearing impairment and other issues, including:
- Increased blood pressure
- Stress & anxiety
- Sleep disturbance
- Difficulties in communicating
- Loss of productivity
According to OSHA, noise may be a problem in the workplace if you notice any of these signs:
- Ringing or humming in the ears even after leaving work.
- Having to shout when communicating with a coworker an arm’s length away.
- Temporary hearing loss when leaving work.
Hierarchy of Controls For Occupational Health and Safety
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) established the hierarchy of controls that help limit worker exposure to occupational hazards, including industrial noise pollution.
The hierarchy, shown as an inverted pyramid, establishes that control measures found at the top offer more protection against workplace hazards than those at the bottom. This is based upon the notion that preventing exposure to a hazard is better than mitigating its effects.
Hazard elimination offers the most protection against hazards, although it is also the most difficult to implement in existing processes. In terms of industrial noise reduction, it involves the removal of the process, machinery, or equipment that generates the loudest noise.
Substitution offers similar protection against hazards as it also involves eliminating the source and replacing it with another piece of equipment that generates less noise. This process is easier to implement in the industrial setting during the design or development stage.
Otherwise, removing an integral part of the entire process could entail redesign and recalibration, which may prove too costly.
While hazard removal is the ultimate goal, OSHA recognizes that it is not always possible. In these instances, engineering controls are more favored as they offer significant protection against exposure to hazards.
Engineering controls work by controlling worker exposure to workplace hazards. This can be done either by isolating workers from the source or isolating the hazard to prevent exposure to workers.
Engineering controls may require a significant upfront investment, but they can provide considerable cost savings in lower operating costs in the long run.
Administrative Controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Administrative controls and PPE are used within existing processes when hazards are difficult or impossible to control. These involve altering the way people work either by improving scheduling or providing workers with earplugs to minimize exposure to industrial noise pollution. These methods offer the least amount of protection and control.
Control at the Source
The best long-term solution to industrial noise control is to treat the root cause of the problem and solve it at the source. However, for any mode of control to be effective, a comprehensive survey must be conducted in order to identify the source and determine how much it contributes to the overall noise level at the facility.
Once noise sources are identified, you can set up the necessary control measures to minimize or eliminate excessive noise and vibrations. One such control method is vibration damping through retrofitting.
In vibration damping, the transfer of high-frequency sound is controlled by setting up absorptive panels or casing, resulting in noise reduction by up to 30 dB.
Track and Treat the Path of the Noise to Workers
The next step for industrial noise control is determining ways to treat the sound transmission path. This involves implementing control measures to block sound transmission between the source and receiver by setting up:
- Sound-absorptive surfaces to room or equipment. Absorptive materials are installed on walls, ceilings, or inside enclosures to reduce the buildup of sound in the reverberant field.
- Sound transmission loss lines. It involves using heavy and dense objects with poor sound transmission properties to block or attenuate noise propagating through the walls.
- Acoustical barriers or enclosures. Barriers and enclosures involve setting up a partial or total partition between the source of the noise and the receiver to block the transmission path of sound waves.
- Worker enclosures. Instead of blocking the source, a more cost-effective measure is to set up an isolated environment that dampens noise or blocks sound waves from entering, creating a noise-free workspace. Possible applications include control rooms, video monitoring rooms, and observation windows.
Effective Industrial Noise Pollution Courtesy Sound Fighter®
Sound Fighter® Systems recognizes the need for industrial noise control to protect the workers from the detrimental effects of excessive noise in industrial environments and ensure their health and welfare.
Our SonaGuard Systems provide an absorptive surface that mitigates and attenuates sound waves upon contact, ensuring protection against excessive noise. To know more about how our comprehensive solutions can help manage industrial noise pollution in your facility, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-866-348-0833 or use this contact form to request a quote!