Noise in the Workplace

Having excessive or loud noise in the workplace is dangerous not only to the employees working in those zones, but throughout the workplace as noise and vibrations can carry throughout your work building. The following provides tips for reducing noise exposure and protecting employees that frequently use power tools and other noisy pieces of equipment.

The Dangers of Workplace Noise

No matter what type of workplace your employees perform their job duties in, there are a myriad of noises they will most likely be exposed to. It is not to say every type of noise is harmful, but the louder and more frequent these sounds are, the more damaging they can be to your employees.

The worst type of noise is both loud and has accompanying vibrations, which is common in construction and manufacturing positions. Not only can hearing be affected by the noises and vibrations, but touch can as well. Excessive noises heard over a long period of time are damaging to the ears, which are often found with power tools, in factories and foundries, and busy places like airports and even shopping malls.

Measuring Noise in the Workplace

Measuring noise is the best way to determine if the types and levels of noises are potentially damaging to your employees. Measuring noise levels also helps in creating a proper noise control program. Further, it helps you find out what work locations have the biggest noise problems.

There are different indicators for finding out about dangerous noise levels, including noise being louder than city traffic, having workers increasing the volume of the radio or television after work, or workers not being able to communicate in a group or social gathering due to all the different sounds and voices.

Instruments used to measure noise include an integrating sound level meter (ISLM) and a sound level meter (SLM).

How to Reduce Noise

There are many ways you can start reducing noise in the workplace. Take note of the following workplace noise reduction tips:

  • Invest in quieter power tools and equipment.
  • Have a low-noise policy for new equipment.
  • Have silencers attached to different pieces of equipment, like vehicle exhausts.
  • Use sound-absorbing material to reduce vibrations.
  • Place noise barriers around the noisiest parts of the workplace.
  • Reduce reflection of noise with sound-absorbing materials.
  • Keep workers out of noisy areas when they aren’t using the equipment.
  • Frequently rotating workers that are using noisy tools and equipment.

Protecting the Ears

Not only can the above tips help you reduce noise and the resulting damage, employees that work with or around noisy equipment should always protect their ears. As an employer, it is your responsibility to provide your employees with ear protection and make sure employees use them at all times. It’s a good idea to police the employees’ use of noise reduction accessories, particularly for employees using very noisy tools or working in a particularly noisy environment.

In addition, it is helpful to post signs in the Hearing Protection Zones that signal everyone in these areas are wearing ear protection.

Aside from protecting your employees from high levels of noise, they should also have coverage from a workers’ compensation insurance policy in the event that they do suffer from hearing damage or hearing loss.