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April 5, 2017

Tips to Reduce Workplace Noise Exposure

Hearing protection required
Exposure to noise at work can harm workers’ health. The most well-known effect of noise at work is loss of hearing, a problem documented since the 1700s. Other effects of workplace noise include increased risk of accidents, impaired communication, reduced productivity and a variety of health problems - including suspected effects on unborn children. But some workplaces are inherently noisy. Fortunately, a variety of measures can be taken to reduce or control occupational noise levels.

Although hearing PPE may be the first control people think of, PPE is considered the least effective option for noise hazard control. The hierarchy of controls, from most to least effective, is:

  • Eliminating the hazard source
  • Substitute with less-noisy equipment
  • Engineering controls that isolate people from the hazard
  • Administrative controls that change the way people work
  • PPE that addresses the worker, not the source of the noise

A recent article by OH&S discusses aspects of noise reduction and ways to make your

workplace safer and more comfortable. Here's an overview of 10 specific engineering, administrative and PPE suggestions noted in the article:

Do not enter without wearing ear protection
  1. Hearing Protection for Employees - Consider passive and active sound-blocking mechanisms.
  2. Position of Noise Sources and Workplace Layout - Arrange your workplace so noisy machines are further away from employees.
  3. Building Design - Sound-insulating walls and floors can have a big impact on noise levels.
  4. Staffing Practices - Reduce the amount of time workers spend in contact with the sound source by rotating workers.
  5. Enclose Machines or Other Sources of Noise - Install a barrier or enclosure between a loud machine and workers.
  6. Keep Machinery Up to Date - Worn machinery typically is louder than new. Consider the sound quality benefits of newer machines.
  7. Install Sound Insulating Equipment on Machinery and Fixtures - Silencers can reduce low-frequency sounds generated by airflow.
  8. Consider Noise Scores When Buying Machinery - "Buy quiet" is a government initiative to encourage businesses to purchase equipment with lower noise levels.
  9. Monitor Employee Well-Being - Hearing tests before and during your employees' tenure can help identify any loss of hearing before it escalates too far.
  10. Other Measures - Provide worker training on ways to prevent hearing damage. In the end, each staff member is the best person to monitor and judge their levels of noise exposure. 
The full article includes additional information on all 10 tips.

Workplace Noise Resources:

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