Noise Hazards in Occupational Health
The ASP is committed to helping inform, and protect workers from any potential hazards.
In 2015, the United States Department of Labor reported that “there were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries, which occurred at a rate of 3.0 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers.” Often times these injuries are due to poor hazard control practices.
Having an understanding of Noise hazards can help to eliminate injuries that are noise related.
The primary hazard of noise is hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss is related to the amount of time a person is exposed to the noise, the decibel level, the frequency, and whether the noise is continuous or intermittent. Types of noise-induced hearing loss include the following: Temporary threshold shift, which is caused by a short exposure to loud noise. Permanent threshold shift, which is caused by continuous exposure to noise. Temporary or permanent acoustic trauma caused by a loud noise, as from an explosion.
In addition to hearing loss, noise can also interfere with communication. Noise can make it difficult to hear warnings and sirens and even to communicate normally. It also interferes with learning, causes a startle response and other physiological problems such as high blood pressure and ulcers, and makes people irritable and frustrated.
Baseline audiogram, decibel, hazardous noise, noise dose, noise-induced hearing loss, threshold of hearing, and threshold of pain
A baseline audiogram is a valid audiogram done after a quiet period and used as a comparison for future audiograms to see if hearing thresholds have changed. Decibel (dB) is a unit that defines the intensity of sound. Hazardous noise is any sound that can cause permanent hearing loss in a specified population. OSHA has established allowable daily amounts of noise that workers can safely be exposed to. The noise dose is the percentage of this daily exposure that a particular sound meets. A noise-induced hearing loss is any sensorineural hearing loss that can be linked to noise and for which no other cause can be identified. Threshold of hearing is one dBA. This is the weakest sound that a healthy human can hear in a quiet setting. Threshold of pain is 140 dBA. This is the maximum level of sound that a human can hear without pain.
Controlling noise in the workplace
The primary way to control noise in the workplace is to prevent noise from occurring in the first place by setting noise specification levels for equipment and processes. Where noise can’t be avoided, its effects can be reduced by grouping and enclosing noisy processes in a soundproof area so that people working in other areas are not bothered. Design features that can help reduce noise include the following: Controlling the direction of the source. Reducing flow rates. Reducing driving forces. Controlling vibrating surfaces. Using barriers and shields. Building with sound-absorbing materials.
In addition to controlling the noise source itself, you can also protect the workers by requiring protection such as earplugs or muffs.
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