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What Is Industrial Noise?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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Industrial noise is noise associated with industrial processes that may cause hearing damage as a result of the high decibel level, particularly among employees who experience consistent prolonged exposures, like people on the factory floor. Measures for controlling industrial noise are necessary to protect workers. Louder noise can also become a nuisance and may be considered noise pollution, in which case a community may require a company to take action to address it.

Equipment used in a factory can be extremely loud. Everything from grinders to metal-punching devices can be seen in industrial settings, along with things like printing presses, paper trimmers, and so forth. All of this equipment can produce noise at decibel levels high enough to create environmental health and safety concerns. Usually the factory insulates the noise enough to make it inaudible or quiet to people outside, but this does not address worker safety.

Sound baffles are one method for combating industrial noise. In a factory with high ceilings and lots of exposed metal and wood, noise can bounce and amplify. Baffles made from soft materials will absorb sound and make the working environment quieter. Employees can also wear hearing protection like earplugs and noise canceling headsets, depending on the kind of work they do. Headsets are useful for employees who need to be able to communicate, as they can speak into microphones to contact other workers and receive replies through their headsets.

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Industrial noise is not just a problem because of concerns about hearing loss, although this is an important issue. It can also become a safety situation. Loud noise, especially sustained repetitive noise, can be disruptive for concentration, and employees may not be able to focus on tasks. They can also miss safety issues like equipment that is not functioning properly or the presence of another person on the floor. Loud noise may mask warning shouts, abnormal engine sounds, or audible alarms.

Part of the practice of industrial hygiene, an area of occupational health and safety focused on protecting workers in industrial environments, includes industrial noise mitigation. Inspectors can use meters to measure noise levels and determine what kinds of protection may be necessary in a workplace. Simple, inexpensive steps can make the workplace much safer and more comfortable. Workers with concerns about noise levels can discuss them with a supervisor to determine if the workplace should be taking extra noise mitigation measures to protect their safety.

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Mammmood
Post 3

@nony - I’ve never tried noise cancelling headsets but I’d be surprised if they could cancel noise in extremely noisy industrial settings. I’ve tried headphones and earphones and at best they muffle the sound but don’t completely eliminate it.

I think it should be pointed out that industrial noise control is not just an issue on the construction site. Any line of work where there is loud noise is a candidate.

One example I am thinking of, as humorous as it may be, is talk radio. Believe it or not, some of these shock jocks who shout all days for several hours have suffered from partial or even complete deafness as a result.

You’d think they’d have better protections for their eardrums but it’s the kind of job where you have to listen closely and shout loudly. It's definitely an occupational hazard.

nony
Post 2

I don’t think I could ever live near a construction site with the constant rattle of jackhammers all day long.

There is such a place in the middle of our town and they put up soundproof barriers along the site, but it’s not good enough in my opinion. I can still hear them.

There are houses around and I wonder what the homeowners think. I realize that some things are unavoidable. If you have to build you have to build.

Still it’s too loud for most people and it definitely affects your quality of life. That’s why when I chose where to live I found a spot in town that was snuggled in the belly of suburbia, with new no construction underway. I need peace and quiet.

Ivan83
Post 1

I once heard about this condition that can happen to baggage handlers and other people who work around giant airplane engines. It is called something like vibroacoustic disorder.

It works like this. After prolonged exposure to the intense volume and vibration of jet engines, scar tissue begins to develop around the lungs and heart. This is a natural defense mechanism of the body that builds up over time but it has a number of negative effects.

Industrial noise is more than just noise. It can have serious consequences for people that are exposed to it over long careers.

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