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Course 751 - Hearing Conservation Program Management

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Introduction

Reducing Noise Related Hazards

Noise control strategies are the first line of defense against excessive noise exposure. The use of these controls should aim to reduce the hazardous exposure to the point where the risk to hearing is eliminated or minimized.

With the reduction of even a few decibels, the hazard to hearing is reduced, communication is improved, and noise-related annoyance is reduced. There are several ways to control and reduce worker exposure to noise in the workplace.

Engineering and Administrative Controls

Worker sitting in a high noise area.
Limit the amount of time your employees work in a designated "high noise area".

Engineering and administrative controls are essential to achieving an effective hearing conservation and hearing loss prevention program. Engineering and administrative controls represent the first two primary strategies in the Hierarchy of Controls:

  1. remove the hazard through engineering strategies, and
  2. remove the exposure through administrative strategies.

The use of these controls should reduce hazardous exposure to the point where the risk to hearing is eliminated or at least more manageable.

modifying equipment to reduce the noise level.
Engineering controls involve modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker's ear.

Engineering controls

Engineering controls that reduce sound exposure levels are available and technologically feasible for most noise sources. Engineering controls involve modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker's ear. In some instances, the application of a relatively simple engineering noise control solution reduces the noise hazard to the extent that further requirements of the OSHA Noise standard (e.g., audiometric testing (hearing tests), hearing conservation program, provision of hearing protectors, etc…) are not necessary. Examples of inexpensive, effective engineering controls include some of the following:

  • Choose low-noise tools and machinery (e.g., Buy Quiet Roadmap (NASA)).
  • Maintain and lubricate machinery and equipment (e.g., oil bearings).
  • Place a barrier between the noise source and employee (e.g., sound walls or curtains).
  • Enclose or isolate the noise source.

Examples of Engineering Controls

hazard

For hearing loss prevention purposes, engineering controls are defined as any modification or replacement of equipment, or related physical change at the noise source or along the transmission path (with the exception of hearing protectors) that reduces the noise level at the employee's ear.

Typical engineering controls involve:

  1. Reducing noise at the source.
  2. Interrupting the noise path.
  3. Reducing reverberation.
  4. Reducing structure-borne vibration.

Common examples of the implementation of such controls are:

  1. Installing a muffler.
  2. Erecting acoustical enclosures and barriers.
  3. Installing sound absorbing material.
  4. Installing vibration mounts and providing proper lubrication.
Noise Diagram
Developing engineering controls requires the identification of individual noise sources and assessment of their contributions to the overall noise levels

Examples of Engineering Controls (Continued...)

Assessing the applicability of engineering controls is a sophisticated process.

  • First, the noise problem must be thoroughly defined. This necessitates measuring the noise levels and developing complete information on employee noise exposure and the need for noise reduction.
  • Next, an approach to engineering control must be developed, requiring the identification of individual noise sources and assessment of their contributions to the overall noise levels.

When choosing the most applicable engineering controls, you will need to consider the cost of purchasing, operating, servicing, and maintaining the control. For this reason, engineering, safety, and industrial hygiene personnel, as well as employees who operate, service, and maintain equipment, must be involved in the noise-control plan.

Employees who work with the equipment on a daily basis will be able to provide valuable guidance on such important matters as the positioning of monitoring indicators and panels, lubrication and servicing points, control switches, and the proper location of access doors for operation and maintenance.

In situations where employees will be working on or around equipment fitted with engineering controls, it is important to explain to everyone involved why the controls should not be modified, removed, or otherwise defeated.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are changes in the workplace that reduce or eliminate the worker exposure to noise, examples include:

Sound versus distance.
Controlling noise exposure through distance is often an effective, yet simple and inexpensive administrative control.
  • Operating noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed.
  • Limiting the amount of time a person spends at a noise source.
  • Providing quiet areas where workers can gain relief from hazardous noise sources (e.g., construct a soundproof room where workers' hearing can recover – depending upon their individual noise level and duration of exposure, and time spent in the quiet area).
  • Restricting worker presence to a suitable distance away from noisy equipment. Controlling noise exposure through distance is often an effective, yet simple and inexpensive administrative control. This control may be applicable when workers are present but are not actually working with a noise source or equipment. Increasing the distance between the noise source and the worker, reduces their exposure. In open space, for every doubling of the distance between the source of noise and the worker, the sound level of the noise is decreased by 6.02 dB. No matter what the scale of measurement, you will get a 6.02 dB sound level drop for every doubling of distance. You can see how this works by entering values in the table below.

    Calculate Decrease in Sound Level as Distance Increases
    Enter the initial distance from sound source:
    meters or feet, and...
    Enter the initial sound level at the initial distance:
    dB
    Enter another distance farther away from sound source
    meters or feet
    The sound level at this farther distance will be:
    dB
    The sound level decreases by:
    dB
     

Management Responsibilities

Management's primary responsibilities are to make sure that potentially controllable noise sources are identified, and that priorities for controls are set and accomplished. For this purpose, management needs to allocate the appropriate resources and engage outside services or identify capable personnel in-house.

It is also management's responsibility to see that any changes of equipment or process are done only after evaluation of their impact on employee noise exposure.

The purchase of quieter new equipment can be very helpful, but is usually accomplished only with explicit specification, and occasionally some pressure on the equipment manufacturers. Sometimes the company must be willing to pay more for quieter equipment, but these expenditures should be cost-effective in the long run.

Implementing a buy quiet program can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for workplace noise to no longer be hazardous.

Management Responsibilities (Continued...)

Commit resources to your budget.
Managers may need to commit resources for in-house development of technology to control exposure problems specific to their companies and processes.

Often a noise-control effort may seem to be overwhelming. As a result, the company may decide that noise control is not feasible and instead rely on hearing loss prevention measures to prevent hearing loss. However, if noise sources are taken on one at a time, dealing with the noisiest or easiest to quiet sources first, the problem can become manageable over time so that hearing loss prevention measures will be needed only until the noise is reduced to a safe level. Many times two hazards can be reduced or eliminated at once such as in the case of enclosing a noisy machine that generates high heat levels as well. The enclosure can trap the noise and the heat can be vented off to the outside.

Managers may need to commit resources for in-house development of technology to control exposure problems specific to their companies and processes. In some cases, they may need to budget for maintenance of exposure control devices to prevent their deterioration over time. Finally, they should make sure that lunch and break areas are as free from noise hazards as reasonably possible, and that other avenues of administrative controls have been explored.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees must support the hearing conservation program.
Employees should assist those who make the measurements by sharing their knowledge about the work environment.

Employees who operate or maintain and repair the equipment are often the ones who know most about the processes involved, they need to express their concerns and ideas to management, the program implementer, or the noise-control engineer so that the noise-control devices will be as practical and effective as possible. Employee assistance is especially critical to the success of engineering noise surveys where sound sources within a work process or a piece of equipment need to be evaluated, and only the employee knows the proper operation of the equipment. Employees also need to cooperate by maintaining their normal work routine when asked to wear dosimeters, so that the results will be representative of their actual exposures.

Sound levels often increase when equipment begins to wear or fails to receive appropriate maintenance. Also, changes in equipment placement may cause unintended effects on sound levels. When employees notice such changes, they need to inform the supervisory personnel or the program implementer that a change has occurred. A re-survey will be needed to evaluate the new sound levels and employee exposures whenever equipment or production changes occur.

Employees also have the responsibility of learning to operate their machines with the noise controls in place, of maintaining the controls properly, and of notifying the appropriate personnel when additional maintenance is needed.

Great work! That’s the end of module three, good luck on the quiz.

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. Typical engineering controls involve all of the following except _____.

2. In situations where employees will be working on or around equipment fitted with engineering controls, it is important to explain to everyone involved why the controls should not be modified, removed, or otherwise defeated?

3. What are administrative controls?

4. Which of the choices below are examples of Administrative controls?

5. _________ and __________ controls represent the first two primary strategies in the Hierarchy of Controls.


Have a great day!

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