Minimize Exposure to Hazards Using the Hierarchy of Controls

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) published a useful guide called “Hierarchy of Controls” that details (5) different types of control methods for exposure to occupational hazards while showing the relative effectiveness of each method.

HierarchyControls
CDC Hierarchy of Controls

The least effective methods are Administrative Controls and PPE. Administrative Controls involve making changes to the way people perform the work and promoting safe practices through training. The training could be related to correct operating procedures, keeping the workplace clean, emergency response to incidents, and personal hygiene practices, such as proper hand washing after handling hazardous materials. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is the least effective method because the equipment (ear plugs, gloves, respirators, etc.) can become damaged, may be uncomfortable and not used, or used incorrectly.

In the middle range of effectiveness is Engineering Controls. These controls are implemented by design changes to the equipment or process to reduce or eliminate the hazard. Good engineering controls can be very effective in protecting people regardless of the the actions and behaviors of the workers. While higher in initial cost than Administrative controls or PPE, typically operating costs are lower, and a cost saving may be realized in the long run.

The final two, Elimination and Substitution are the most effective but can be the most difficult to integrate into an existing process. If the process is still in the design phase, it may be easier and less expensive to eliminate or substitute the hazard. Elimination of the hazard would be the ultimate and most effective method, either by removing the hazard altogether, or changing the work process to the hazardous task is no longer performed.

EXAIR can help your company follow the Hierarchy of Controls, and eliminate, or reduce the hazards of compressed air usage.

Engineers can eliminate loud and unsafe pressure nozzles with designs that utilize quiet and pressure safe engineered air products such as Air Nozzles, Air Knives and Air Amplifiers. Also, unsafe existing products such as air guns, can be substituted with EXAIR engineered solutions that meet the OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.242(b) and 29 CFR 1910.95(a).

Nozzles

In summary, Elimination and Substitution are the most effective methods and should be used whenever possible to reduce or eliminate the hazard and keep people safe in the workplace.

If you have questions about the Hierarchy of Controls and safe compressed air usage from any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Understanding Decibels & Why OSHA Pays Attention to Your Noise Exposure

In the simplest of metric terms, a decibel is one-tenth of a bel.  But, historically, bel was a unit created to honor Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone.  In the early days with telephone wires, they noticed that the signal strength would decay over a long distance.  In order to determine power requirements to connect people for communications, they determined that they could use the ratio of power levels.  As a start, it had to be based on a minimum amount of power required for a person to hear on the telephone.  They found that the signal power level to generate an angular frequency of 5000 radians per second would be that minimum value as determined by an average number of people.  They used this mark as a reference point in the ratio of power levels.  Because of the large variations in values, they simplified the equation on a base-10 log scale and dividing the bel unit by 10.  Thus, creating the measurement of decibel.

Today, this same method is used to measure sound.  Like frequency waves that travel through the telephone wires, pressure waves travel through the air as sound.  This sound pressure is what our ears can detect as loudness, and it has a pressure unit of Pascals (Pa).  As an example, a small sound pressure would be like a whisper while a large sound pressure would be like a jet engine.  This is very important to know as high sound pressures, or loudness, can permanently damage our ears.

With sound pressures, we can determine the Sound Pressure Level (SPL) which is measured in decibels (dB).  Similar to the equation for the telephone power signals above, the SPL also uses a ratio of sound pressures in a base-10 logarithmic scale.  For a minimum reference point, an average human can just start to hear a sound pressure at 0.00002 Pa.  So, the equation for measuring sound levels will use this minimum reference point as shown in Equation 1.

Equation 1:

L = 20 * Log10 (p/pref)

where:

L – Sound Pressure Level, dB

p – Sound pressure, Pa

pref – reference sound pressure, 0.00002 Pa

Why is this important to know the decibels?  OSHA created a chart in 29CFR-1910.95(a) that shows the different noise levels with exposure times.  This chart was created to protect the operators from hearing loss in work environments.  If the noise level exceeds the limit, then the operators will have to wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), or suffer hearing damage.  EXAIR offers a Sound Level Meter, model 9104, to measure sound levels in decibels.  It comes calibrated to accurately measure the sound to determine if you have a safe work environment.

Sound Level Meter

There is a term that is used when it comes to loud noises, NIHL.  This stands for Noise Induced Hearing Loss.  Once hearing is damaged, it will not come back.  To keep your operators safe and reduce NIHL, EXAIR offers many different types of blow-off products that are designed to decrease noise to a safe level.  So, here’s to Alexander Graham Bell for creating the telephone which can be used to contact EXAIR if you have any questions.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

 

Photo of Telephone by Alexas_FotosCC0 Create Commons

Know What to Look For – Are Your Compressed Air Guns OSHA Safe?

One of the easiest ways to find out if your compressed air guns are safe for operation is by looking at the nozzle.  First, take your current compressed air gun and disconnect it from the compressed air line.  Second, look directly into the end of the nozzle where the air comes out.  If you can see the inside of the nozzle, then your air gun or blow-off device is unsafe.  Nine out of ten compressed air guns are considered to be dangerous.  In this blog, I will go through the dangers and violations of compressed air guns and nozzles that are very common in the market place.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, is an organization that enforces standards for safe and healthy working environments.  They have training, outreach programs, and educational assistance for manufacturing plant.  But, they will also enforce these standards with heavy fines for violations.  The two most common violations with compressed air guns and nozzles are 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure/chip shielding and 29CFR 1910.65(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure.  If you are unfortunate in receiving an audit, the OSHA agent will target your compressed air guns and blow-off devices.

Unsafe Nozzle

Here is the first example of a nozzle that I would like to discuss.  As you can see, there is only one opening where the air can come out from the nozzle.  Other types of nozzles that would fall into this category will include copper pipes, extensions, or worn nozzles.  They are dangerous as the compressed air cannot escape if it is blocked by your skin.  An air embolism could occur within the body which can cause bodily harm or death.  If operated above 30 PSIG (2 bar), these nozzles would violate the OSHA 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure.  This is a hazard which can be avoided by using EXAIR Super Air Nozzles and Safety Air Guns.  The nozzles are designed to utilize fins to allow air to escape and not penetrate your skin.  With EXAIR products, you will not violate this standard even if you go above the 30 PSIG (2 bar).

Safety Air Gun

To counteract the dead-end pressure violation, some nozzle manufacturers created a hole through the side of the nozzle (Reference photo below).  This will allow for the compressed air to escape, but, now the issue is noise level.  With an “open” section in the nozzle, the compressed air is very turbulent and very loud.  They state that 70% to 80% of all hearing loss within a manufacturing plant is caused by compressed air.  For this, OSHA 29CFR 1910.65(a) was created to show the maximum allowable noise exposure.  This chart shows the time and noise limits before requiring hearing protection.  The EXAIR Super Air Nozzles are designed to have laminar flow which is very quiet.  With our typical Safety Air Gun, model 1210, the sound level is only 74 dBA; well under the noise exposure limit for 8 hours.

Unsafe Air Gun
Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

Why do I bring these points up?  Because safety is everyone’s responsibility.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, has an overview of how to handle hazards in the workplace.  They call it the Hierarchy of Controls (click).  This is a means to best protect workers from dangers.  The most effective way is by eliminating the hazard or substituting the hazard.  The least effective way is with Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.  For your unsafe compressed air nozzles and guns, EXAIR can help by substituting the hazardous air gun and nozzle with an engineered solution designed with safety in mind.

In my opening statement, I explained a quick and easy method to determine if your compressed air guns are dangerous.  To keep your company compliant and safe, EXAIR offers a variety of different types of nozzles and Safety Air Guns to best fit your requirement.  If you find that you are using hazardous blowing equipment, you can contact an Application Engineer to find a safe and effective alternative.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.15(a) – Occupational Noise Exposure Limits

Hearing loss due to high noise levels is a common problem in many industrial facilities. Without the use of proper PPE, hearing loss can occur quickly. This is a serious concern as hearing loss is permanent and once the damage is done there’s no way to reverse it. Due to this risk, OSHA strictly enforces standard 29 CFR-1910.95(a).

This directive discusses the effects of noise and limits exposure based on the dBA. The table below indicates the maximum allowable exposure time to different noise levels. Sound levels that exceed these levels should first be addressed by proper engineering controls such as isolating the source of the sound from personnel or replacing the cause of the sound with something like an engineered compressed air nozzle. When such controls aren’t feasible, proper PPE must be worn to protect the operator.

OSHA Chart

Hearing loss can occur in as little as 30 minutes when exposed to sound levels 110 dBA or greater. Operators have a tendency not to use PPE as directed, if an OSHA inspector comes to your facility and notices that the sound levels exceed the maximum allowable level without protection hefty fines will be soon to follow. In this example from the United States Department of Labor, a company was fined a total of $143,000 for failing to protect their employees.

SoundMeter_new_nist225
Model 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter

In order to identify the places or processes in your facility that are causing the problems, you’ll need a tool to measure the sound level. EXAIR’s easy to use Digital Sound Level Meter allows you to measure and monitor the sound level pressure in a wide variety of industrial environments. The source of the loud noise can then be identified and isolated so that corrective action can be taken. For compressed air related noise, EXAIR manufactures a wide variety of engineered compressed air products that can reduce the sound level dramatically. In many cases, EXAIR products are capable of reducing noise levels by as much as 10 dBA. Since the dBA scale is logarithmic, this equates to cutting the sound level in half!

sound-level-comparison
Drilled pipes and open ended tubes are the common culprit for excessive noise levels. Replacing them with an engineered solution often eliminates the need for hearing protection.

If there’s processes within your facility that are above these limits and you’d like to eliminate relying on proper PPE, give an Application Engineer a call. We’ll help walk you through the selection process and make sure that when the OSHA inspector comes knocking you’re prepared!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

OSHA At 35,000 Feet

Early one morning I was on a flight to the West coast to start up a system that I had designed and built for a large food producer.  After the flight attendants had passed out our first beverage and snack I struck up a conversation with the passenger next to me.  We engaged in the typical banter about how hilarious it is to watch some passengers try to stuff an oversized bag into the overhead compartment and ultimately have to check it.

I then asked the reason for her trip and she explained that she worked for OSHA and had conducted a study on flight crew safety and was in route to give her report on the findings.  I was naturally intrigued and asked her what the risks were for a flight crew other than the obvious perils of being 35,000 Ft. above the ground for long periods of time.

Her reply was radiation exposure from the sun!  I had never considered that flight crews spend long periods of time above the thickest layer of our atmosphere.  Flight crews are exposed to significantly greater amounts of radiation compared to us folks who are on the ground more and consequently develop certain health conditions at a higher rate than the general population.

While EXAIR can’t help you with radiation exposure, we can bring you into OSHA compliance with noise, OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1910.95 (a).

This standard is concerned with the level of noise that personnel are exposed to over a given period of time.  Often times in plants compressed air noise exceeds the OSHA noise level requirements which unfortunately results in hearing loss.  Noisy air blow-offs can produce noise in excess of 100 dBA.  Studies have proven that noise levels that are sustained for varying periods of time can ultimately result in permanent hearing loss.  Similar to the way flight crews are exposed to the radiation, some employess may not realize they are being exposed to a harmful level of noise from compressed air usage.  This is why OSHA generated the standard that has allowable limits for sustained noise levels in order to mitigate the risks for personnel in the area.  Utilizing EXAIR Super Air Nozzles the noise can be reduced to only 74 dBA.  EXAIR Engineered Air Nozzles reduce the noise without losing the hard hitting force.

dBA Chart

EXAIR also meets OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.242(b) for “Dead End Pressure”. This standard addresses how dangerous compressed air can be when the outlet pressure of a hole, hose or open pipe is higher than 30 PSIG (2 Bar).  If the opening is blocked (dead-ended) into any part of the body, air could enter the bloodstream through the skin.  This may result in serious injury.  All EXAIR Nozzles and Jets are designed for safety and can’t be dead-ended into the skin therefore can be safely operated above the 30 PSIG (2 Bar) limit.

sag-osha-compliant

If you would like to discuss noise levels, dead end pressure or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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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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Measuring and Adding Sounds

Sound

My colleague, Russ Bowman, wrote a blog about “Sound Power Level and Sound Pressure”.  He discussed the logarithmic equations around sound.  I will be discussing what happens when you have more than one sound source, as often heard within manufacturing plants.  Sounds can be added together to determine the overall sound level that your hear.  This is very important when it comes to minimizing hearing loss.

In looking at a single source of sound, sound pressure is created by the loudness of a noise.  The units are measured in Pascals.  The lowest pressure perceived by human hearing is 0.00002 Pa, and we can use this value as a reference point.  From sound pressures, we can arrive to a sound pressure level which is measured in decibel, dB.  This correlation between sound pressures and sound pressure levels are calculated by Equation 1:

 

 

L – Sound Pressure Level, dB

P – Sound pressure, Pa

Pref – reference sound pressure, 0.00002 Pa

As an example, the sound pressure from a passenger car as heard from the roadside is 0.1 Pa.  With Equation 1, we can get the following decibel level:

L = 20 * Log10 (0.1Pa/0.00002Pa) = 74 dB

Because human ears are sensitive to different frequencies, the sound pressure levels can be modified, or weighted, to indicate an effective loudness level for humans.  This adjustment is done in two different ways; A-weighting and C-weighting.  The C-weighting is for very loud noises with high peaks or sharp impacts like gunfire. The A-weighting is the most commonly used value as the sound pressure levels are adjusted by the frequency level.  For higher and lower frequencies, the change in the sound value is much greater than the mid-level frequencies that are within our hearing range.  Sound measurements for safety are measured in the A-weighted scale.  OSHA created a chart in the 29CFR-1910.95(a) standard that shows the noise levels over exposure times for an operator.  To use the OSHA chart accurately, the total noise level in dBA should be calculated.

OSHA Chart

To determine the total sound level, we can add all the sound pressure levels together by Equation 2:

 

 

Where L1, L2… represents the sound pressure level in dBA for each sound source.

As an example, a manufacturing plant had an operator using a machine that had four copper tubes to blow off a cutting operation (reference photo below).

Blow off station

The decibel level for a copper tube was measured at 98 dBA.  The total amount of sound that the operator was exposed to was determined by Equation 2 with four values.

L = 10 * log10 (109.8 + 109.8 + 109.8 + 109.8)

L = 104 dBA

In looking at the OSHA chart, the operator would only be allowed to operate the machine only a little over one hour without hearing protection.  In this same example, we replaced the copper tubes with an EXAIR Super Air Nozzle, model 1110SS.  The noise level for each nozzle is 74 dBA.  By replacing all four copper tubes with Super Air Nozzles, Equation 2 becomes:

L = 10 * log10 (107.4 + 107.4+ 107.4 + 107.4)

L = 80 dBA

The total sound level is now in accordance with OSHA regulations for the operator to work all 8 hours at the machine without hearing protection.

A commonly used acronym in hearing safety is NIHL, or Noise Induced Hearing Loss.  To keep your operators safe and reduce NIHL, it is important to measure the total sound level.  As a protocol in safety, it is a requirement to use engineering standards before purchasing personal protective equipment or PPE.  For the customer above, they followed that protocol with our Super Air Nozzles.  If you need to reduce noise levels in your facility by engineering standards, EXAIR offers a large line of blow-off products that can meet the safety requirements.

 

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

 

Photo of Ear auricle Listen by geraitCC0 Create Commons.