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Course 751 - Hearing Conservation Program Management

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Evaluating Exposures

Warning Signs of Hazardous Workplace Noise

Noise may be a problem in your workplace if:

  • You hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work.
  • You have to shout to be heard by a co-worker an arm's length away.
  • You experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.

Noise-induced hearing loss can develop rapidly in workers exposed to relatively high noise levels on a daily basis.

How to evaluate Noise exposure?

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The first step toward solving any noise problem is to define it. To understand what requirements must be implemented according to OSHA's noise standard, it is necessary to determine exposure levels. The following sections provide information about evaluating noise exposure levels:

  • Indications of a Problem
  • Walk-around Survey
  • Work-shift Sampling
  • Instruments Used to Conduct a Noise Survey

Indications of a Problem

When noise levels are between 85 and 90 dB, people have to shout.
When noise levels are between 85 and 90 dB, people have to shout.

There are various factors that may indicate noise is a problem in the workplace. While people react differently to noise, subjective responses should not be ignored because they may provide warnings that noise may be at unacceptable levels.

Noisy conditions can make normal conversation difficult.

  • When noise levels are above 80 decibels (dB), people have to speak very loudly.
  • When noise levels are between 85 and 90 dB, people have to shout.
  • When noise levels are greater than 95 dB, people have to move close together to hear each other at all.

Do you work in a noisy environment? If so, you may be experiencing some hearing loss without even realizing it. A new study from the Harvard Medical Center shows neural damage can continue for months after exposure to noise has ended, resulting in worsening tinnitus and difficulty interpreting speech.

Click here to read an article from our partner, HSE Press, for more information.

Walk around survey

Tour the facility and develop a detailed understanding of potential noise sources.
Tour the facility and develop a detailed understanding of potential noise sources.

A walk around survey should be performed to screen for noise exposures and to determine if additional monitoring is necessary. When screening for noise exposures, sound level meter measurements and estimates of the duration of exposure are sufficient. The resulting spot readings can be used to determine the need for a more thorough evaluation. The following general approach may be followed:

  1. Tour the facility and develop a detailed understanding of facility operations and potential noise sources. Make notes on a diagram of the floor plan if possible. Look for indications that noise may be a problem.
  2. Use a sound level meter to take spot readings of operations that are in question. It may be useful to mark the sound levels on a diagram of the floor plan. Make notes regarding what equipment is on or off.
  3. Estimate exposures by identifying workers and their locations, and estimate the length of time they spend in different areas or how long they operate particular equipment or tools.

If the results of the walk around survey indicate time-weighted average (TWA) exposures of 80 dBA or more, then additional noise monitoring should be performed.

A dosimeter is small enough that it should not interfere with an employee's duties.
A dosimeter is small enough that it should not interfere with an employee's duties. Image used with permission from Sensidyne | http://www.Sensidyne.com

Work-shift Sampling

When the results of the walk around survey indicate that the noise levels may exceed those outlined in OSHA's noise standard, additional monitoring is necessary. Establish a sampling protocol for your workplace. A general protocol is provided as an example. Follow this sampling protocol:

  1. Inform the employee being monitored that the dosimeter (noise sampling equipment) should not interfere with his/her normal duties, and emphasize that the employee should continue to work as usual.
  2. Explain the purpose of the dosimeter to each employee being sampled and emphasize that the dosimeter is not a speech recording device.
  3. Instruct the employee being sampled not to remove the dosimeter unless absolutely necessary and not to cover the microphone with a coat or outer garment or move it from its installed position. Inform the employee when and where the dosimeter will be removed.
  4. The microphone should be located in the employee's hearing zone. OSHA defines the hearing zone as a sphere with a two-foot diameter surrounding the head. Clip the microphone to the employee's clothing according to the manufacturer's instructions. Most manufacturers recommend that the microphone be placed on the shoulder area midway between the head and the point of the shoulder. Practicality and safety will dictate the actual microphone placement at each survey location.
  5. Use the microphone windscreen to protect the microphone when the wearer is outdoors or in dusty or dirty areas (the windscreen will not protect the microphone from rain or extreme humidity).
  6. When noise levels are different at each of the employee’s ears, the higher level must be sampled.
  7. Position and secure any excess microphone cable to avoid snagging or inconvenience to the employee. If practical, the cord should be run under the employee's shirt or coat.
  8. Check the dosimeter periodically to ensure the microphone is properly oriented.
  9. Obtain and note sound level meter readings during different phases of work the employee performs during the shift. There is no minimum regarding the number of readings to obtain, but it is important to take enough readings to identify work cycles. For statistical reasons, more readings should be taken when noise levels fluctuate widely.
  10. Record the information required on the OSHA-92 Noise Survey Report.

Noise Survey Instruments

Sound Level Meter
Sound Level Meter

Sound Level Meter

There are various factors that may indicate noise is a problem in the workplace. While people react differently to noise, subjective responses should not be ignored because they may provide warnings that noise may be at unacceptable levels. A sound level meter (SLM) is the basic instrument for investigating noise levels.

For compliance purposes, readings with an ANSI Type 2 sound level meter and dosimeter are considered to have an accuracy of ±2 dBA while a Type 1 instrument has an accuracy of ±1 dBA.

Sound level meters can be used to:

  • Spot-check noise dosimeter performance.
  • Determine the employee's noise dose whenever use of a noise dosimeter is unavailable or inappropriate.
  • Identify and evaluate individual noise sources for abatement purposes.
  • Aid in determining the feasibility of engineering controls for individual noise sources.
  • Evaluate hearing protectors.

Please click here to learn more about the considerations of use for sound level meters.

Noise Survey Instruments (Continued...)

Dosimeter

Like a sound level meter, a noise dosimeter can also measure sound levels. However, the dosimeter is actually worn by the employee in order to determine the personal noise dose during the work shift or sampling period. According to OSHA's noise standard, the noise dosimeter is the primary instrument for making compliance measurements.

Dosimeters can be used to:

  • Make compliance measurements according to OSHA's noise standard.
  • Measure the employee's exposure to noise and automatically compute the necessary noise dose calculations.

Please click here to learn more about the considerations of use for dosimeters.

Employee potentially overexposed to noise.
Noise overexposure in the workplace can occur where employees wear a communications headset as part of their employment.

Employees Wearing Headsets are at Risk

Noise overexposure in the workplace can occur where employees wear a communications headset as part of their employment. Clerical personnel, aircraft pilots and other cockpit personnel, air traffic controllers, emergency personnel, reservation clerks, receptionists, and telephone operators are just a few examples of the more than three million workers who can be exposed to high noise levels via communication's headsets.

3M Edge Dosimeter Training Video

Dawson Sound Level Meter Training Video

Sound Level Meter Pro - Smart Phone - Training Video

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. The first step toward solving any noise problem is to _____ it.

2. ANSI Type 2 meters have an accuracy of _____.

3. According to OSHA's noise standard 29 CFR 1910.95, the _____ is the primary instrument for making compliance measurements.

4. Can overexposure to noise in the workplace occur where employees wear a communications headset?

5. When may noise be a problem in your workplace?


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.