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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Safe Trip

Just getting back in the swing of things after being on vacation last week. My family, along with my mother, went on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise which included 3 days at sea and 3 days at different ports. Our port stops included the Bahamas, San Juan Puerto Rico and the island of St. Maarten. My wife and I have cruised several times and have already visited these islands, but with this cruise being our son’s and my mother’s first, we thought we would try to experience some different things.

Our last port was St. Maarten, where “we” (my wife and mother) planned our day of shopping and having an authentic lunch at a local restaurant. With the shopping portion of the day complete, we started asking locals for a good place to have lunch. We met a local who ran his own taxi company and recommended we have lunch at Maho Beach but it was going to be a 20 minute taxi ride. When we arrived, for some reason the area seemed somewhat familiar and then it hit me…. I’ve seen this place on TV! Their airport sits right on the edge of the island and arriving and departing planes basically fly right over your head while sitting at the restaurant/bar or swimming at the beach.

People line up along the road and fence line and wait for the next plane (the restaurant/bar has arrival and departure screens and will yell out when a large commercial jetliner is approaching), making it a very crowded area. Due to the potential jet blast coming from the engines there are safety signs posted that people ignore. I did ask one of the restaurant/bar managers if safety is such a concern, then why do they allow people to line up and he said “all they can do is warn people, if they want to subject themselves to injury, then that’s on them”. I don’t want to see anyone getting hurt, but I must admit, it is a little humorous to see people get blown all over the beach. Needless to say, we stood a good distance away.

St Maarten02_Maho Beach38Safety signmaho-beach-st-maarten

In all seriousness, safety should be a primary concern. Is your plant currently practicing safety when dealing with compressed air? Open pipes, tubes or drilled pipe can consume large amounts of compressed air, and exceed the pressure and noise level thresholds outlined by OSHA. And we are all aware that personnel don’t always abide by the safety rules – much like ignoring a safety sign.

At EXAIR, our customer’s safety is of utmost importance. All of our intelligent compressed air products meet or exceed the OSHA standard 1910.242(b) for safety.  This means that you can still operate the devices at 80 psig while not having to worry about an operator injuring themselves with the compressed air.  This is not just for one product line, but ALL of the compressed air products that we manufacture.

EXAIR products also meet or exceed the OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure levels.   The chart for allowable noise level exposure is below. Occupational hearing loss is a serious issue in manufacturing, in fact, it is the most commonly recorded illness is manufacturing. Engineering controls, like replacing open air lines with engineered air nozzles, are one of the top recommendations to solve the problem. Engineering controls can effectively eliminate the problem of people forgetting, refusing, or ignoring safety processes.

OSHA Noise Level

By implementing the EXAIR engineered solutions into your facility you can effectively lower the noise level cause by unsafe compressed air blow offs and possibly eliminate the need for hearing protection all together.   In my experience any time an operator doesn’t need to wear hearing protection or you can make their surrounding environment a little quieter, they tend to be a little happier which, always leads to better production. Again, many resources back this up, loud noise can also create physical and psychological stress.

These are just two of the standards that EXAIR will never take a vacation on.   Every product that EXAIR designs must be safe for operator operations, whether that be through pressure output or through the noise level it creates.

Contact one of our applications engineers to see how we may be able to improve similar safety concerns at your facility.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN