For many employees, working in a busy warehouses store, manufacturing environments, or industrial companies, noise is common. But how much noise is too much for you?
Noise pollution is one of the most persistent, yet overlooked. Noise is an underrated cause of several health problems like hearing loss.
To protect workers from noise hazards, it is recommended to allow no more than 85 decibels during an 8-hour workday. Because sound engineers and audiologists measure decibels on a logarithmic scale, they can better predict hearing damage. For better evaluation, take a look at below descriptive sound levels:
- A soft voice from a distance of 3 feet: 35 dBA
- Jackhammer noise at a distance of 49 feet: 95 dBA
- Normal conversation at the same distance: 60 dBA
- Vacuum cleaner noises from 10 feet away: 72 dBA
- Flight engines during takeoff, 300 feet away from listener: 125 dBA
For the average listener, noise reaches a pain threshold at 140 dBA. And it only takes 3 additional dBAs to double the perceived noise and reduce the recommended coverage.
So if a worker spends 8 hours in an 85 dBA environment, he or she would need to spend only 15 minutes in a 100 dBA environment to exceed these limits risks permanent hearing loss.
At minimum, excessive noise causes stress to the mind and body. If workers find themselves exposed to too much noise for very long time, their productivity suffers as a result. They also find it difficult to concentrate or communicate. If unresolved, noise may even lead to workplace accidents.
Moreover, constant noise impairs workers’ hearing by cutting out high-frequencies. This makes it difficult for the listener to understand co-workers. Long-term hearing loss impairs communication and socializing. In the long run, someone with profound hearing loss also feels cut off from the rest of the world, leading to depression.
Clearly, noisy workplaces have serious impact on physical health.
Assessing Your Risks
If you feel concerned about a noisy workplace, don’t risk your hearing, instead speak to your supervisor. These are the top signs of trouble:
- Chronic, intrusive noise – If you hear traffic all day long, machinery above safety levels (without hearing protection), or raised voices in combination with other factors, pay attention.
- Machine tool use – If you work with noisy machines and power tools for longer than a half-hour without ear protection, this isn’t a safe limit. Make your objections known.
- Unrelenting impact noises – If you hear impact tools, hammering, and explosive noises, remember it could damage hearing over time. Try using a ear protection.
- Impaired ability to communicate – If you have to use visual alerts to warn others of hazards, you could be at risk. If mechanical or other noise makes it impossible to verbally communicate, your workplace is too loud.
Your workplace needs to outfit employees with ear protection in noisy zones and make sure it’s appropriate for the task at hand. Always ask your employer about protocols in the workplace, if you don’t know them.
How Employers Can Help
Are you in charge of your workers’ health and safety? Do whatever you can to protect and create a safe workplace. Start by implementing the following strategies:
- Install noise-reducing machinery and protective shields around noisy areas.
- Work with relevant staff to reduce noise at its source.
- Create quiet workstations and break areas; then, require instituted break periods.
- Maintain machinery for peak efficiency (some noises come from inefficient mechanical operation).
- Plan work places that are secured properly (to reduce unnecessary vibration).
- Require-and provide-regular hearing exams for all employees.
- Offer as many hearing protection in noisiest zones.
- Design better processes and machinery process.
Of course, training is also critical. Inform and instruct employees so they understand the risks in each area like you can tell them how to use headphones properly. Invite an audiologist on site to educate employees and employers alike. Instruct workers whenever the process changes, and tell them how to report equipment defects and eliminate risks.
Your hearing is very important to you to take for granted. Protect yourself and others around you by doing what you can now to improve your work environment. Call us for a appointment today to get a better understanding on how to protect your employees from excessive noise at work place.