Wokers operationg loud machinery (How to Reduce Noise Levels in the Workplace)

Over 20 million workers in the United States alone are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work on a daily basis. Apart from the high levels of noise causing workers to lose their ability to hear, it prevents workers from hearing warning signals, which can lead to serious accidents and even death. Communication between workers gets affected, and it significantly decreases the worker’s ability to concentrate. It is vital to keep the workplace the safest possible. This blog will go over how to reduce noise levels in the workplace to make it a safer environment for all workers.

To prevent serious hearing damage, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers not be exposed to noise accumulating to more than 85 decibels for 8 hours. However, the lower you can reduce the sound levels, the better. But how do employers do this? Read on below to find out how!

Sources of Noise in the Workplace

Before we get into the details of how to prevent high noise levels, what are their sources? The most common noise sources include the following:

  • Heavy equipment
  • Power generators
  • Manufacturing equipment motor vehicles
  • Sirens
  • Hammers and jackhammers
  • Construction activity
  • Drills and other power tools

Unlike changes in temperature, humans cannot adjust to or become acclimated to high noise levels. Hearing loss happens gradually, so workers may not notice it until it’s too late. There are 3 factors that contribute to noise that need to be examined when determining what type of noise exposure a worker is receiving:

  • Intensity or loudness: measured by a noise level meter and expressed in decibels
  • Frequency: the most damaging frequencies are between 3,000 and 4,000 Hz
  • Duration: how long an employee is exposed to noise

How to Reduce Noise Levels in the Workplace

Hearing protection devices are an essential element when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in noisy environments. However, reducing the high noise levels is the best tactic. PPE should always be your last line of defense. The steps you need to take to determine what is necessary is:

  1. Recognize that a noise hazard may exist
  2. Evaluate the extent of the problem
  3. Control the problem

With respect to the 3rd step, doing the following in this order is the best way to resolve the noise issue:

  1. Eliminate the hazardous noise
  2. Substitute the loud equipment for a quieter alternative
  3. Introduce engineering controls to reduce noise to safer levels
  4. Use administrative controls to reduce the hazardous noise
  5. Provide PPE to protect workers from dangerous noise levels

Noise Reduction Construction Equipment. Caucasian Worker with Hearing Protection Headphones.

Choose Quiet Machinery and Tools

Low noise machinery and tools are available in this day and age. If you have old equipment, you should consider replacing old equipment with more modern, safer options. Noise scores aren’t always displayed on the equipment; however, you can call the manufacturer to inquire information on this.

Substitute for Lower-Noise Options

Good substitutions include:

  • electric rather than pneumatic tools
  • presses rather than hammers
  • hydraulic presses rather than mechanical ones
  • belt conveyors rather than roller conveyors

Isolate the Source of Noise

By keeping the noise source in one place, employers can protect workers from exposure and hearing damage. Even noise levels that are below exposure limits can be irritating, causing stress and impacting their efficiency and performance. Solutions include:

  • designing an insulated room
  • installing a sound wall or curtain behind the noise-producing equipment

PPE: The Last Line of Defense

If you’ve done all of the above and still need to provide further noise protection to your workers, then PPE is your last line of defense. If worn correctly, it can effectively protect your workers from these noise levels. Great hearing protection equipment you can provide to your workers includes:

High noise levels are a big problem in the workplace, causing thousands of workers to have severe hearing problems. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to protect them. Whether it’s choosing quiet machinery or providing your workers with the proper hearing protection, you can lay out a safer working environment for everyone. We hope this blog helped you see how to reduce noise levels in the workplace. If you need to get PPE for your workers, give us a call at (310) 856-0166 or click here.