Construction Site Noise Hazards

noise2Twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Last year, U.S. business paid more than $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting workers from noise.

Construction and industrial noise is largely caused by mechanical impacts, high-velocity fluid flow, high-velocity air flow and vibrating surface areas of a machine.

There are several ways to control and reduce worker exposure to noise in a workplace where exposure has been shown to be excessive. Exposure to noise is measured in pressure levels called decibels which are closely matched to the perception of loudness by the human ear and the potential for damage to hearing.

Modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker’s ear are a sound first step. Safety measures include:

  • Choose low-noise tools and machinery;
  • Maintain and lubricate machinery and equipment (e.g., oil bearings);
  • Place a barrier between the noise source and employee (e.g., sound walls or curtains); and
  • Enclose or isolate the noise source.

Controlling noise exposure is also an important proactive measure. This means operating noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed; limiting the amount of time a person spends at a noise source; providing quiet areas where workers can gain relief from hazardous noise sources; and controlling noise exposure through distance. Specifically, for every doubling of the distance between the source of noise and the worker, the noise is decreased by 6 dBA.

Personal Protective Equipment for Hearing Protection

According to OSHA, when the worker’s noise exposure equals or exceeds an 8-hour time average of 85 decibels, the employer is required to develop and implement a hearing conservation program, which includes monitoring noise levels, testing, training and providing hearing protection when necessary.
Two main types of hearing protection devices, earplugs and earmuffs, are used to protect against hearing damage. They are generally required in workplaces when noise levels reach 85 decibels or higher.

  • Earplugs form a seal inside the ear canal to prevent high noise levels from reaching the inner ear. The advantages of earplugs are that they are lightweight, do not interfere with headgear, and are less expensive.
  • Earmuffs cover the outer ear and form a seal. Advantages of earmuffs over earplugs include providing more consistent protection and being easier to put on and off, and therefore being good for short jobs.

For more details about selecting the right hearing protection for your construction site, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

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