Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Noise Control: It's More than Just Earplugs

Controlling noise in the workplace ...

"OSHA requires employers to evaluate engineering and administrative controls before using personal protective equipment.

An OSHA inspection at an Atlanta steel mill resulted in a citation for failure to reduce sound levels that could damage employees' hearing. The noise exposures for an 8-hour day were between 91 and 94 decibels (dB).

An expert witness testified that a three-sided booth built around the noisy equipment would reduce the noise level by 7 to 10 dB, and a fourth side would provide another 5 to 7 dB reduction. Other proposals to reduce noise included replacing cooling fans with larger, slower fans and enclosing the employees' break area to block noise from workers on break.

Actions that reduce the amount of noise, like replacing a fan and building enclosures around equipment, are called engineering controls. Replacing the fan would be a "source control" because it removes a source of noise, and the enclosure would be a "path control" because it blocks the sound from reaching employees' ears. Administrative controls also can reduce noise exposure by moving employees to quieter areas, or operating noisy equipment on different shifts.

Although OSHA requires employers to evaluate engineering and administrative controls before using personal protective equipment, most people first think of earplugs when they need to protect workers' hearing in a noisy workplace."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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