Combating Noise in the WorkplaceMarch 1, 2009
Article provided on behalf of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (www.aiha.org) by Mary Ann Latko, AIHA director of Scientific and Technical Initiatives.
For millions of American workers, exposure to dangerous noise levels is a daily fact of life, and occupational hearing loss is particularly insidious because it sneaks up on the worker. Like many construction workers, sheetmetal workers may not hear as well as they once did, and by retirement many sheetmetal workers have noticeable hearing loss.
Employers and employees alike need to take steps to protect workers’ hearing.
Because metal workers often are exposed to too much noise, a program for hearing-loss prevention should be put in place that includes noise monitoring, training, efforts to reduce noise and use of hearing protectors.
Noise-Exposure Level for Metal Workers
The legal noise exposure limit for construction workers in most states is an 8-hr. (full-shift) average exposure of 85-90 dB, a standard enforced by OSHA. Rick Neitzel, a certified industrial hygienist and research scientist at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine, has been measuring noise exposures of construction workers. Among sheetmetal workers he found:
• The average level is 79 dB across a full work shift (noise below 85 dB is considered low hazard).
• About one-tenth of work shifts were above the 8-hr. limit of 85 dB (85-95 dB are harmful after long-term exposure and considered a caution zone).
• About one-fifth of work shifts had short periods of extremely high levels of noise above 115 decibels (short-term exposure of 95 dB and above is potentially harmful and considered a high hazard).
|May Seminar on Pressroom Safety
The Precision Metalforming Association will hold its Pressroom Safety Seminar on May 27 at PMA headquarters in Independence, OH. Industrial-safety experts will teach attendees how to identify and eliminate hazards, evaluate and reduce risks, implement various means of protection and prevention, and decrease lost work days. For more information, contact PMA’s Deanna Nwosu at 216/901-8800 ext. 162 or email@example.com
Measuring the noise level of various tools showed that:
• Noise levels of most tools used by sheetmetal workers exceed 85 dB;
• The highest average noise levels came from hammers, sledges, crew guns and drills;
• Noise levels were usually above 85 dB even when no tool was used.
Looking at whether sheetmetal workers use hearing protectors when their noise levels were above 85 dB, hearing
• Needed most when large power tools and rotohammers were used;
• Worn most often when workers used large power tools, welding and cutting equipment, and hand power saws;
• Almost never worn during use of rotary and squaring shears.
(To learn more about this research, visit http://depts.washington.edu/occnoise.)