Why Control Noise?
The Pain and Cost of Noise Pollution
In industrial settings, noise is not just unpleasant, it can be a major source of expense and lost productivity. Noise-induced hearing loss can lead to higher worker compensation claims and higher insurance costs.
Too much noise can interfere with communications between supervisors and employees. Continuous noise exposure can also cause fatigue, which often can result in an accident and reduces the peace and quality of work.
In Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss: A Practical Guide, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) discusses several strategies for dealing with noise in the workplace. In short, they include:
- Preventing or containing the escape of hazardous workplace agents at their sources. (In this case, noise.)
- Controlling the exposure with barriers between the worker and the hazard.
If there is no noise to begin with, then you have no problem. If only it were that simple. Unwanted noise comes in more than one flavor. There is point-source noise and overall noise.
Point-source noise is audible, kinetic energy that can be traced to specific devices. These may include industrial machines, pumps, blowers, and generators.
Overall noise is uncontrollable sound that has no identifiable source. This would include noise from conversation, tools, and smaller machines located in an industrial setting.
To make matters more complicated, the frequency of noise can affect you in different ways, too. Fatigue and nausea are often caused by low-frequency vibration, while high frequencies are likely to result in pain and hearing loss.
Finally, reverberation can disrupt communications and contribute to higher noise levels as well. Reverberation is caused by the reflection of sound waves from hard surfaces. Often this is experienced in gymnasiums.
Controlling The Exposure
There are many different products that will help to control the noise exposure. Once you have identified the source, then you can learn to control it. Some strategies include:
- Creating an enclosure or barrier, something that will help keep the noise contained;
- Installing sound absorbing material, because now that it is enclosed we don’t want it to bounce all around;
- Installing vibration mounts, for machines or equipment that may be quiet if they have something to help absorb the noise between them and the surface they are attached to
Noise is all Around
Noise is hazardous in places other than the workplace. High noise levels and reverberation are common issues in non-industrial settings as well. Issues are often found in gymnasiums, auditoriums, cafeterias, multipurpose rooms, churches, and other large public spaces. Unwanted and uncontrolled sound is not only counterproductive, but can get in the way of a room’s intended purpose. It can also cause fatigue, pain, and hearing loss.
Where are some noisy places you’ve encountered? Were you able to fix the situation? Do you have a place in mind that has unwanted noise?
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