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Noise Hazards: What you must know!

The amount of acoustic energy received by an employee’s auditory system while working in the industry is referred to as occupational noise. Occupational noise, often known as industrial noise, is a term commonly used in occupational safety and health because prolonged exposure can result in irreversible hearing damage. Noise hazards that are historically associated with loud industries include shipbuilding, mining, railroad work, welding, and construction, although it can occur in any workplace with hazardous noise.

Occupational noise pollution happens when an employee’s auditory system is exposed to a high level of noise regularly during their employment. Because of its intensity and repetitive, long-term exposure, excessive noise and the damage it might inflict are detrimental to an employee’s hearing. Many people are unaware that noise can cause workplace mishaps and/or accidents, as well as disrupt vital office communication and result in lower productivity.


Americans are thought to spend more than 85% of their time indoors. The majority of that time is spent in a confined space. Knowing this, one should anticipate the indoor workplace conditions to be pleasant, comfortable, and conducive to high performance for you and your team. Each year, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially harmful noise at work. Hearing loss can be avoided whether you work in a sports stadium, on the tarmac, or with a jackhammer.

Main sources of noise at work

Noise is a prevalent issue that can be found in almost any workplace. In industries such as entertainment, manufacturing, agriculture, shipbuilding, textiles, mining and quarrying, food and drink, woodworking, metalworking, and construction, it is the most common health danger.

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive loud exposure. Hearing loss can also be caused by some chemical agents known as ototoxic substances and drugs. Over 200 chemical compounds have been recognized as having the potential to cause hearing loss, either temporarily or permanently. Noise-induced hearing loss may be exacerbated by exposure to such substances.

Some common sources of noise are:
  • Loud music,
  • Heavy machinery,
  • Workplace transportation
  • Circular saws and cutter heads are examples of electrical tools.
  • Lines of production
  • Drills, grinders, and riveting guns are examples of pneumatic tools.
  • Generators and electric motor
  • Metal fabrication is an example of an engineering process.
  • Ventilation equipment must run continually in plant rooms.
Health effects of noise

Noise Hazards

Individuals who are exposed to high levels of noise in the workplace may have a variety of negative health effects. These health problems can be produced by a single exposure to extremely loud noise or by sustained exposure to high levels of noise.

Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common occupational affliction in Europe. For at least half of the time, they are at work, 20% of Europe’s workers must raise their voices to be heard, and 7% have hearing problems. In 2000, 29% of EU15 workers and 35% of new member states workers said they were exposed to high-level noise at least a quarter of the time, and 11% all of the time.

Moreover, 10 million people (about 1 in 6) in the United Kingdom are thought to have some degree of hearing impairment or deafness. Over one million workers are exposed to noise levels that endanger their hearing, with 17% experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing-related problems as a result of this exposure.

How to Reduce Noise Pollution at work

Noise Hazards

Once you’ve determined that noise pollution is a possibility in your workplace, the next step is to address the issue. Companies can take steps to promote a safer working environment for their employees by reducing their exposure to noise pollution.

There are numerous options for limiting your occupational noise exposure. A guideline for reducing harmful noise is the hierarchy of controls. First, the business can eliminate the source of the noise. If the noise source cannot be eradicated, the organization must seek alternate techniques to lessen the noise. Acoustic quieting is the term for this technique.

Acoustic quieting is the process of dampening vibrations in machinery to keep them from reaching the observer. The corporation can isolate a certain piece of machinery by placing items on it or between it and the worker to reduce the signal strength reaching the worker’s ear.

The employer can also exercise administrative control over an employee’s exposure to harmful noise by restricting the employee’s exposure period. This can be accomplished by rearranging work shifts and removing employees from the noise-exposure zone. Finally, hearing protection should be worn to reduce occupational noise exposure. Earplugs and earmuffs of various varieties can be used to reduce noise levels to a safe level.

Changes may include:
  • Changing the equipment
  • Place equipment in a separate, soundproof enclosure or a different, isolated place.
  • Employees should be provided with personal hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.
  • Allow staff to work in the office’s quiet zones.
  • Run noisy equipment early in the morning or late at night.
  • Allow acoustic professionals to examine your situation and provide you with a variety of options.

Keep an eye on staff sick days and productivity drops. Understand your OSHA compliance responsibilities and do your utmost to resolve noise issues. Develop a complete hearing conversation program by taking the necessary steps (HCP). A healthy work environment equals a healthy bottom line.

Excessive noise exposure can be mitigated by using noise controls. These controls should be used to prevent hazardous exposure to the point where the risk of hearing loss is eliminated or reduced. Hearing loss is minimized, communication is improved, and noise-related irritation is reduced when decibel levels are reduced by even a few dB. There are numerous methods for controlling and reducing noise exposure in the workplace.

Noise Sources

For most noise sources, engineering measures that limit sound exposure levels are available and technologically viable. To reduce the noise level at the worker’s ear, engineers repair or replace equipment, or make relevant physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission channel. In some cases, a relatively simple engineering noise control solution minimizes the noise hazard to the point where additional OSHA Noise standard requirements (e.g., audiometric testing (hearing tests), hearing conservation program, provision of hearing protectors, etc…) aren’t required. The following are some examples of low-cost, effective engineering controls:

  • Choose low-noise tools and gear (for example, NASA’s Quiet Roadmap).
  • Machinery and equipment should be maintained and lubricated regularly (e.g., oil bearings).
  • Put a barrier between the source of the noise and the employee (e.g., sound walls or curtains).
  • Isolate or enclose the source of the noise.

Changes in the workplace that decrease or eliminate worker noise exposure are known as administrative controls. Here are several examples:

Sound vs. Distance
  • Using noisy machines during shifts when there are fewer people around.
  • Keeping the length of time, a person spends near a noisy source to a minimum.
  • Providing quiet locations where workers can escape dangerous noise sources (e.g., build a soundproof chamber where workers’ hearing can recover – depending on their noise level and duration of exposure, as well as time spent in the quiet area).
  • Worker presence should be limited to a safe distance from noisy equipment.
  • Controlling noise exposure by distance is a common and effective administrative control that is also easy and economical. When workers are present but are not working with a noise source or equipment, this restriction may be appropriate. The worker’s exposure is reduced by increasing the distance between the noise source and the worker. In open space, noise is reduced by 6 dBA for every doubling of the distance between the source of noise and the worker.
Ear Muffs

Hearing protection devices (HPDs), such as earmuffs and plugs, are a less desirable but acceptable option for controlling noise exposures. They are typically used while engineering or administrative controls are being implemented, when such controls are not feasible, or when worker hearing tests reveal significant hearing damage.

Employers in the general industry must implement an effective hearing conservation program whenever worker noise exposure is equal to or greater than 85 dBA for an 8-hour exposure, and employers in the construction industry must implement an effective hearing conservation program when exposures exceed 90 dBA for an 8-hour exposure. The goal of this program is to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the necessary information and hearing protection devices. A successful hearing conservation program must have the following elements: 


Personal noise monitoring, which detects which employees are in danger from hazardous noise levels, is included in workplace noise sampling.

  • Notifying workers who are at risk of being exposed to dangerous levels of noise about the results of their noise monitoring.
  • Allowing impacted workers or their authorized representatives to observe any noise measurements that are being taken.
  • Maintaining an audiometric testing program (hearing tests) for workers, which is a professional assessment of the health impacts of noise on individual workers’ hearing.
  • After completing baseline (initial) and yearly audiometric testing, implementing complete hearing protection follow-up procedures for workers who indicate a loss of hearing (standard threshold shift).
  • Proper hearing protection selection is based on individual fit and manufacturer quality testing, which indicates the likely level of protection provided to a properly trained wearer.
Hierarchy Of Controls - Noise Hazards
Hierarchy Of Controls – Noise Hazards
  • Examine the hearing protector’s attenuation and effectiveness concerning the noise level in your job.
  • Workers should receive training and information to ensure they are aware of the dangers of excessive noise exposure and how to correctly use the protective equipment provided.
  • Information management and staff access to monitoring and noise assessment records.

The impact of workplace noise on occupational health · Temporary hearing impairment: constant exposure to intense noise leads to ear fatigue.