Protect Personnel from Noise with Engineered Products

Sound can be defined as vibrations that typically travel as an audible wave through mediums that can be a gas, liquid or solid. For this blog we will concern ourselves with sound travelling through a gas (atmosphere) in an industrial setting.

Sound is energy that travels in waves and is measured by its frequency (cycles per second) and amplitude (intensity). A common unit of measurement for sound energy is the decibel. The decibel (abbreviated with dBA) is a unit-less number that is based on the logarithm of a known measured quantity to a reference quantity. Without reciting the equation for every increase of 3 dBA is a doubling of sound energy or twice as loud.

Since our focus is on industrial sound one might question why be concerned at all, after all sound emanates from most machines and devices. The reason for concern is that there are OSHA regulations regarding the amount of time workers can be exposed to different levels of sound in their workday as illustrated below. These limits are in place to protect personnel from Noise Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL. When the damage to anyones hearing is caused by their profession, it is also referred to as Occupational Hearing Loss or OHL.

After monitoring for noise, NIOSH and the CDC next recommend administrative controls to minimize or eliminate the noise hazard (click for their helpful PDF). This would include the use of noise reducing EXAIR products like Super Air Nozzles, Air Knives and Air Amplifiers.

dBA Chart.JPG
OSHA Maximum Allowable Noise Exposure

When considering the many items in an industrial setting that produce loud sounds the list would be exhaustive. Many of them simply produce loud sounds that can’t be eliminated or reduced while on the other hand there are some that can. Some of the noisiest offenders that plants have control over are air powered tools and open tube blow-offs.  Eliminating inefficient methods of part blow off & part cleaning with an engineered solution allows a company to significantly reduce the level of sound in their plant, improve worker safety and save money on compressed air consumption.

Employers are required to provide hearing protection to employees whom are exposed to sounds above 90 dBA on a Time Weighted Average (TWA). Without digressing into the formulas TWA calculates a workers daily exposure to occupational sounds by taking into account the average levels (in dBA) and the time exposed to different levels.  This is the how OSHA assesses workers exposure and what steps should be taken to protect the workers.

To conclude, plants need to be mindful of the OSHA regulations for sound levels, time of exposure and that hearing protectors wear out. Earmuff seals can lose their elasticity and reduce their effectiveness and the soft pre-molded earplugs can wear out in a day and need replaced.  Keep a good supply on hand and OSHA suggests letting workers with noisy hobbies take them home for protection off the clock!

If you would like to discuss reducing noise or any EXAIR product, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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