## 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.

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

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.

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).

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.

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

## Sound – It Adds Up! How to Calculate Decibel Levels

Keeping noise levels in check and at safe levels is very important to ensure employee safety and well being.  OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) through standard 29 CFR-1910.95(a) has studied the situation and set Maximum Allowable Noise Exposure limits in Hours per Day based on the Sound Level, in dBA, of exposure.

For existing processes, a Digital Sound Meter is a valuable tool to measure the sound level to ensure that the source of loud noises can be quickly identified and isolated for immediate corrective action.

For new processes, or changes to an existing process, it is important to estimate the sound level prior to installation and start-up, so that precautions can be taken as needed.

For example, let’s say we are going to add a blow off station to clean off a part on a conveyor to improve the process and increase the throughput.  A typical set-up might be a 12″ Super Air Knife (model 110012) blowing off the top and a pair of Super Air Nozzles (model 1100) to blow off the sides.

If we look at the performance data for the (2) different blow off devices, we find that the Super Air Knife is rated at 69 dBA and the nozzles at 74 dBA, when operated at 80 PSIG of compressed air supply.

When asked, “what is the sound level for (1) of the knives, and (2) of the nozzles” a little Acoustic Engineering is in order. The decibel scale is logarithmic, and determining the total sound level when all (3) devices are in operation is not as easy as adding up the three sound level values (which would equal 218 dBA, way off the charts!).  Thankfully, both the actual sound level and the numerical value are determined another way.  I’ll spare you a lot of the math but the equation is as below.

… where SL1, SL2, SL3, … are the sound levels in dBA of the each sound makers, for as many that are being combined (in our example SL1 = 69, SL2 = 74 and SL3 = 74)

Plugging in the numbers into the equation, the combined sound level works out to be a quiet 77.65 dBA — well within the OSHA limit for exposure for a full 8 hour period.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can make your process better and quieter, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our other Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

Send me an email
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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.

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

Send me an email
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## The Decibel

The decibel is a unit of measurement that relates the ratio of a physical value to another value and is expressed on a logarithmic scale.  The common symbol for decibel is dB.  The decibel is used as a measure for many parameters in science and engineering such as acoustics (sound), electronics (power levels) and control theory.

The decibel originates from methods used to express performance and loss in telegraph and telephone circuits.  The term ‘bel’ was coined in honor of Alexander Graham Bell, and the decibel, being 1/10th of a bel was established.

For most of us, the decibel is the familiar term relating to how loud a sound is.

With sound, the sound pressure is typically what is measured and is the local pressure deviation from the base or equilibrium atmospheric pressure, caused by a sound wave. In air, the sound pressure can be measured by a standard microphone, and is measured in pascals (Pa.)

To get to the common decibel reading we are familiar with, a little mathematics comes into play.

• where Lp is the Sound Level in dB, prms is the measured sound pressure, and pref is the standard sound reference pressure of 20 micropascals.
• The prms is what is measured by a microphone

Below are some representative sounds and the decibel rating – Note that sounds that are above 85 dB can cause hearing issues, and proper protection should be taken.

Some other interesting blogs about sound for you take a look at-

Sound Power Level and Sound Pressure

Super Air Knife Math – When 72  + 72 = 75

If you would like to talk about sound or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

Send me an email
Find us on the Web

## EXAIR Products: Silencing Mufflers Overview

OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a), relating to permissible noise exposure levels, states that when employees are subjected to sounds in excess of 90 dBA, some type of control should be used to reduce the sound level. In an industrial setting, it’s very common to find the exhausting air from air operated devices such as actuators, diaphragm pumps or cylinders for example, to produce sound levels well above the allowable limits set forth in the Standard. EXAIR offers a variety of different Silencing Mufflers that help to reduce this  noise level, while also increasing operator safety.

EXAIR’s Reclassifying Mufflers offer noise reduction up to 35 dB and are available in sizes ranging from 1/8″ to 1″ NPT. These types of mufflers are often considered”dual-purpose” as they not only reduce the noise level but also remove oil from the exhaust airflow by incorporating a removable filter element.  The exhausting oil mist is reduced from 50 PPM (parts per million) to only 0.015 PPM, when the device is operated at 100 PSIG. In addition, there is a bowl on the bottom to capture any residual oil and a 1/4″ tube adaptor to allow for easy draining.

Sintered Bronze Mufflers are a relatively low cost option, commonly used with air cylinders as they can be installed quick and easy. We offer 1o different sizes, ranging from #10-32 for small installations, up to 1-1/2″ NPT for larger scale applications. The noise reduction depends on the size of the muffler and back pressure, which can occur from dirt or particulate clogging the muffler, restricting the exhausting airflow from passing through the porous sintered bronze.

Our Straight Through Mufflers are made of corrosion resistant aluminum and are lined with a sound absorbing foam, capable of reducing noise levels up to 20 dB. We offer 3 different sizes, 1/4″, 3/8″ and 3/4″ NPT, with a male thread on one end and female thread on the other. We incorporate this muffler design into our Cold Guns and Adjustable Spot Coolers and they are commonly used with our Vortex Tubes, Cabinet Cooler® Systems and E-Vac® Vacuum Generators as well.

Lastly, the Heavy Duty Mufflers feature an internal, 50 mesh stainless steel screen, to protect against contaminants in the airflow,  and a corrosion resistant aluminum outer shell. In most cases, the sound reduction can be as high as 14 dB and we offer 2 different sizes, 1/4″ and 3/8″ FNPT. These types of mufflers are regularly used on the hot air exhaust of our Vortex Tubes.

For help with product selection or to discuss a particular process, please contact one of our application engineers at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

## Sound Power Level and Sound Pressure

Energy…all day (and night) long, we humans are surrounded by – and bombarded by – all kinds of energy. Sometimes, the effects are pleasant; even beneficial: the warmth of the sun’s rays (solar energy) on a nice spring day is the sure-fire cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and is also the catalyst your body needs to produce vitamin D. Good things, both. And great reasons to get outside a little more often.

Sometimes, the effects aren’t so pleasant, and they can even be harmful. Lengthy, unprotected exposure to that same wonderful sun’s rays will give you a nasty sunburn. Which can lead to skin cancer. Not good things, either. And great reasons to regularly apply sunblock, and/or limit exposure if you can.

Sound is another constant source of energy that we’re exposed to, and one we can’t simply escape by going inside. Especially if “inside” is a factory, machine shop, or a concert arena. This brings me to the first point of today’s blog: sound power.

Strictly speaking, power is energy per unit time, and can be applied to energy generation (like how much HP an engine generates as it runs) or energy consumption (like how much HP a motor uses as it turns its shaft) For discussions of sound, though, sound power level is applied to the generation end. This is what we mean when we talk about how much sound is made by a punch press, a machine tool, or a rock band’s sound system.

Sound pressure, in contrast, is a measure of the sound power’s intensity at the target’s (e.g., your ear’s) distance from the source. The farther away you get from the sound’s generation, the lower the sound pressure will be. But the sound power didn’t change.

Just like the power made by an engine and used by a motor are both defined in the same units – usually horsepower or watts – sound power level (e.g. generation) and sound pressure (e.g. “use” by your ears) use the same unit of measure: the decibel.  The big difference, though, is that while power levels of machinery in motion are linear in scale, sound power level and pressure scales are logarithmic.  And that’s where the math can get kind of challenging.  But if you’re up for it, let’s look at how you calculate sound power level:

Where:

Wis reference power (in Watts,) normally considered to be 10-12 W, which is the lowest sound perceptible to the human ear under ideal conditions, and

W is the published sound power of the device (in Watts.)

That’s going to give you the sound power level, in decibels, being generated by the sound source.  To calculate the sound pressure level:

Where:

Lis the sound power level…see above, and

A is the surface area at a given distance.  If the sound is emitted equally in all directions, we can use the formula for hemispheric area, 2πrwhere r=distance from source to calculate the area.

These formulas ignore any effects from the acoustic qualities of the space in which the sound is occurring.  Many factors will affect this, such as how much sound energy the walls and ceiling will absorb or reflect.  This is determined by the material(s) of construction, the height of the ceiling, etc.

These formulas may help you get a “big picture” idea of the sound levels you might expect in applications where the input data is available.  Aside from that, they certainly put into perspective the importance of hearing protection when an analysis reveals higher levels.  OSHA puts the following limits on personnel exposure to certain noise levels:

EXAIR’s line of Intelligent Compressed Air Products are engineered, designed, and manufactured with efficiency, safety, and noise reduction in mind.  If you’d like to talk about how we can help protect you and your folks’ hearing, call us.