What is a Decibel Level?

Decibel level also known as dBA, is how the industry measures sound intensity’s effect on the human ear and is an important value when discussing noise exposure for employees and operators within manufacturing. Manufacturing personnel can be at risk for hearing damage when exposed to high decibel levels if the proper precautions are not taken. For reference, 0 dBA is the softest level that a person can hear. Normal speaking voices are around 65 dBA. A rock concert can be about 120 dBA.

Sounds that are 85 dBA or above can permanently damage your ears. The more sound pressure a sound has, the less time it takes to cause damage. This damage occurs within a sensitive part of our ear called the cochlea, which contain thousands of hair cells used to allow our brains to detect sounds. For example, a sound at 85 dBA may take as long at 8 hours to cause permanent damage, while a sound at 100 dBA can start damaging hair cells after only 30 minutes of listening.

OSHA Max Noise Exposure Chart

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Whether you work near machinery, at a sports venue, on a tarmac, or operate a jackhammer—hearing loss is preventable.

Noise may be a problem in your workplace if you:

  • Hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work.
  • Have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm’s length away.
  • Experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.

If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone 3 feet away, noise levels might be over 85 decibels. Sound-measuring instruments are available to measure the noise levels in a workspace.

The first step to lowering your sound level is to take a baseline reading of your various processes and devices that are causing the noise. EXAIR’s Sound Level Meter, Model 9104, is an easy to use instrument that provides a digital readout of the sound level. They come with an NIST traceable calibration certificate and will allow you to determine what processes and areas are causing the most trouble.

From there, EXAIR has a wide range of Intelligent Compressed Air Products® that are designed to reduce compressed air consumption as well as sound levels. For noisy blowoffs where you’re currently using an open-ended pipe or a loud commercial air nozzle, EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzles are the ideal solution. Not only can they pay for themselves over a short period of time time due to compressed air savings, but your operators will thank you when they’re able to hear later on in life!

 EXAIR has the tools you need to reduce sound level in your processes. If you’d like to talk to an Application Engineer about any applications that you feel could benefit from a sound reduction, give us a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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Twitter: @EXAIR_JS

Keep Your Pneumatics “Healthy” and “Running Like a Brand New Car”

Compressed air systems are used in facilities to operate pneumatic systems, and these systems are vital for industries.  So, it is important to keep them running.  The system can be segregated into three different sections; the supply side, the demand side, and the distribution system.  I like to represent these sections as parts of a car.  The supply side will be the engine; the distribution system will be the transmission; and, the demand side will be the tires.  I will go through each section to help give tips on how to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system.

From the supply side, it will include the air compressor, after-cooler, dryer, and receiver tank that produce and treat the compressed air.  They are generally found in a compressor room somewhere in the corner of the plant.  The air compressor, like the engine of your car, produces the pneumatic power for your plant, and needs to have maintenance to keep it working optimally.  The oil needs to be changed, the filters have to be replaced, and maintenance checks have to be performed.  I wrote a blog that covers most of these items, “Compressed Air System Maintenance”.

To connect the supply side to the demand side, a distribution system is required.  Distribution systems are pipes which carry compressed air from the air compressor to the pneumatic devices.  Just like the transmission on the car, the power is transferred from the air compressor to your pneumatic products.

Maintenance is generally overlooked in this area.  Transmissions have oil which can be detected if it is leaking, but since air is a gas, it is hard to tell if you have leaks.  Energy is lost from your pneumatic “engine” for every leak that you have.  So, it is important to find and fix them.  A study was conducted within manufacturing plants about compressed air leaks.  They found that for plants without a leak detection program, up to 30% of their compressed air is lost due to leaks.  This will be equivalent to running on only 6 cylinders in a V-8 engine.

EXAIR offers the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find those pesky leaks.  It makes the inaudible “hiss”; audible.  It can detect leaks as far as 20 feet (6m) away with the parabola attachment, and can find the exact location of the leak to be fixed with the tube attachment.

Another area for discussion with the distribution system is contamination like rust, oil, water, and debris.  Compressed air filters should be used to clean the compressed air that supplies your pneumatic products. They can remove the debris for your pneumatic products to have a long life.  You can read about the EXAIR compressed air filters here, “Preventative Maintenance for EXAIR Filters”.

The third section is the demand side.  So, you have an engine that makes the power, the transmission to transfer that power, and the tires to use that power safely and efficiently.  Many managers miss the importance of the demand side within their pneumatic system.  If you are using blow-off devices like open pipes, coolant lines, copper tubes, or drilled pipe; it will be like running your car on flat tires.  It is very unsafe as well as reducing gas mileage.  To improve safety and efficiency, EXAIR has a line of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives.  Not only will it increase your “gas mileage” to save you money, but they also will keep your operators safe.

In this analogy, you can have a high-performance engine and a durable transmission, but if your tires are bald, flat, or cracked; you cannot use your car safely and efficiently.  The same thing with your compressed air system.  You have to optimize your blow-off devices to get the most from your pneumatic system.  EXAIR is a leader in engineered blow-off devices for efficiency and safety.  So, if you want to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system, you should begin at how you are using your compressed air on the demand side.  EXAIR has Application Engineers that will be happy to help you in trying to keep your pneumatic system running like a “brand new car”.

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

 

Photo: Ford Mustang Roadster by openclipart-VectorsPixabay License

Application Database: Compressed Air Use in the Automotive Industry

EXAIR uses many different methods to connect with our customers.  We have our website, social media, blogs, publications etc. We like to share solutions for some of the most common pneumatic problems in the industry.  EXAIR generated a large collection of application information where EXAIR products have already solved problems and improved processes.  We organized them by Application and by Industry.  In this blog, I will show you how to use our Application database; specifically, for the Automotive Industry.

Compressed Air Systems are considered to be a fourth utility within industries because they use a large amount of energy.  Whether an air compressor that uses fuel for portable units or that uses electricity, it is important to use this system as efficiently as possible.  This would also apply to the Automotive industry.  EXAIR has a library of different processes in which we already improved these areas safely and efficiently.  If you are part of the Automotive industry, it could benefit you to take a peek at the areas that we already improved, established OSHA safety, and saved money.

Here is how you can find this library.  First, you will have to sign into EXAIR.  Click here: Log In.  Once you fill in the proper information, you can then retrieve a great amount of resources about EXAIR products that we manufacture.   The Application database is under the Knowledge Base tab.  (Reference photo below).

At the Application Search Library, we have over one thousand applications that we reference.  In the left selection pane, we organized then in alphabetical order under two categories, Application and Industry.

Scroll down in the selection pane until you come to the sub-category: Industry.  Under this Sub-category, you will find three selections that are related to this blog: Automation, Automobile Recycling, and Automotive.  We have other applications as well that may relate to your specific processes if you scroll up and down the list like; Part Ejection and Machining.  You will find many product applications that have already improved processes and solved problems.

Why is this important?  If you are a plant manager or owner, the value of the Application Database can improve your current processes with pre-qualified results.  Within the Automotive industry, simple solutions can be found to address those “nagging” issues that you see every day.  For crisis situations and shutdowns, EXAIR categorized these applications in a way to reference quickly and easily.  And since EXAIR has a high volume of stocked items, we can get the parts to you very fast so you can quickly be on your way to a solution.

In today’s market, companies are always looking for ways to cut cost, increase productivity, and improve safety.  EXAIR can offer engineered products to do exactly that.  With the “been there and done that” solutions already described in the Application Database; you can have confidence in finding a way in solving pneumatic issues.  If you do not sign up at www.EXAIR.com and take advantage of these offerings, you will be missing out on a great tool to optimize your compressed air system.

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

 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 (a) – It’s a Noise Exposure Standard, Not Just a Confusing Number

Strings of numbers and characters can often appear daunting.  For instance, if I wrote in binary code it would be a string of ones and zeros.  (01000101 01101110 01100111 01101001 01101110 01100101 01100101 01110010 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01000001 01010111 01000101 01010011 01001111 01001101 01000101.) That can look like gibberish and cause concern if unknown or it can make sense to programmers and people familiar with binary code.

Other alphanumeric strings may cause some concern for industry professionals.  Take, for instance, OSHA standards. The OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.95 (a) may be unfamiliar to some, and thus concerning. Many Environmental Health and Safety Engineers will recognize this code.  It is an OSHA standard that revolves around the amount of time an employee is permitted to be exposed to specific sound levels. These sound levels are all based on the weighted sound level of the noise the operators are exposed to. To better understand how the octave and frequency of the sound play into this, there is a chart provided below.

Equivalent A-Weighted Sound Level Chart – (1)

The weighted sound level is the level at which a Digital Sound Level Meter will read the current level of noise within an environment. This scale is then used to move further into the OSHA directive that we focus on helping companies meet to best provide safe environments for their employees to work in.

If you notice, the lowest weighted sound level is 90 dBA, this is also the lowest-rated noise level that OSHA speaks of in 1910.95(b)(2). It has been shown that noise levels over this level for extended periods will result in permanent hearing loss. The standard then goes on to discuss the duration an employee can be exposed to noise levels even with the use of personal protective equipment as well as even impulsive or impact noise.  The table of permissible time limits is shown below.

Permissible Noise Exposures (2)

As you can see from the table above provided by OSHA, any noise level that an operator is exposed to for eight hours cannot exceed 90 dBA. Noises within an industrial environment can also be variable throughout the day. For instance, the operator stands outside of a sheet metal press and the concussive strike on the press gives off a 90 dBA strike for every stroke of the press. This would not be a continuous noise level. Maybe the operator is operating a CNC machine that is cutting a nest of parts and uses a handheld blowgun to remove debris and coolant from the parts before taking them from their fixture. This blowgun is not used continuously and therefore would not be rated as such for the exposure time. A time study would be conducted on the average length of time the operator is utilizing this gun along with the level of noise it produces during use. OSHA then gives a calculation to use to appropriately combine the sound level while the gun is being used and when it is not in use. That equation is written out below.

Mixed Environment Exposure Fraction
C1/T1+C2/T2+… = ____
Total Exposure Fraction
Cn/Tn = ____

Where:
C1 = Duration of time for a specified noise level
T1 = Total time of exposure permitted at that level
Cn = Total time of exposure at a specified noise level
Tn = Total exposure time permitted at that level

Should the summation of the fractions for different exposures be greater than the Total Exposure fraction, the summation value should be used. As mentioned above, a time study on exposure to noise levels will be needed to obtain the information needed for this type of study. Once the study is done the process can proceed to the next level within the OSHA standard which is a hearing conservation program.

I would like to interject a small side-step at this point. Rather than rolling straight into the implementation of PPE which is proven to be the lowest reliable factor of protection by the CDC and NIOSH. If any of these noise levels being generated are due to the use of compressed air points of use, EXAIR can potentially lower the noise of these point of use applications. In the events, open blowoffs or “band-aid” fixes are in place to keep processes running, and Engineered Solutions can easily be implemented that will reduce the noise level produced by this operation. Whether it is on the handheld Safety Air Gun in the hands of a CNC operator, or if it is a part/scrap ejector that is blowing the sheet metal press out after every strike, we have products that have proven time over time using an Engineered Solution will save air, reduce noise levels, and still get the job done.

If you would like to discuss OSHA directives revolving around compressed air, share with us a recent citation you received from an inspector for this standard, or just discuss compressed air usage in general, contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

1 – Equivalent A-Weighted Sound Level Chart – Retrieved from OSHA.Gov – https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=9735&p_table=standards

2 – Permissible Noise Exposures – Retrieved from OSHA.Gov – https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=9735&p_table=standards