Controlling Noise Hazards Through Engineering Methods

Controlling noise hazards in the workplace can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor.  However, for the sake of worker safety to prevent hearing loss; temporary or permanent, this endeavor is worthwhile and meaningful.  Think of it this way, would you want your son or daughter, spouse or grandchildren exposed to noise hazards without any engineering means to minimize or even eliminate it?

This article will focus on engineering methods of stamping out unwanted noise in the workplace.

The table below shows a few examples of operational controls to consider for various types of noise emissions from specific equipment assets.

Noise in the workplace

Additional engineering control methods to combat noise hazards include;

  • Sound barriers such as a solid wall that blocks the line of sight between a noise source and the worker.
  • Partial enclosure is a series of walls around a piece of equipment that is producing and introducing a noise hazard in the workplace. The top is left open so sound can travel upward, away from the worker.
  • Total enclosure, with a closed top will provide better noise reduction than the partial enclosure. However, workers usually need access capability for visual observation, access to raw materials, removal of scrap, etc.  Therefore, sealing of doors and windows for worker access purposes can include weather stripping material to prevent leakage of sound from around these locations.
  • Machinery Acoustical Shields may be inserted between the worker and the noise emission source that could include all of the machinery or only a specific portion of it. Often this shield is mounted on the machine and can provide 8 to 10 dB of noise reduction.

In closing, unwanted noise is commonly present at construction and general industry worksites.  With the potential of noise-induced hearing loss and additional health effects such as increased blood pressure, narrowing of blood vessels and quicken pulse rate, applicable engineering controls should be looked at extensively.  Feasible and effective engineering controlled methods should be looked at as the “first line of defense” to protect workers’ from the hazards of occupational noise.

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