Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE:Buy Quiet Equipment
Each year millions of employees are exposed to noise levels that damage their hearing. Many companies try to protect their workers and meet the minimum Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requirements by establishing a hearing conservation program, educating employees on how to protect themselves against hearing loss, and providing hearing protection. Unfortunately, these steps only have limited success in reducing noise levels and hearing loss.
As with other hazards, engineering and administrative controls are the most effective means of reducing hearing loss. These include eliminating or substituting noisy equipment, installing a muffler, erecting acoustical enclosures and barriers, installing sound absorbing material, installing vibration mounts, and providing proper lubrication and maintenance. The use of such controls can lessen hazardous exposure to the point where the risk to hearing loss is eliminated or reduced. Even the reduction of a few decibels can make a significant change in the health of a worker.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has a Buy Quiet program that provides information on how to control noise exposure. It is part of a larger hearing loss prevention program, including research on the causes and prevention of occupational hearing loss. Many types of previously noisy machinery and tools are now available in noise-controlled versions, so a Buy Quiet purchase policy should not require new engineering solutions in many cases. Supply companies should provide information about the noise levels of their equipment. On its website, NIOSH provides a table of power tools which include noise levels so informed decisions can be made on how to reduce noise exposure.
- An inventory of existing machinery and tools with corresponding noise levels: The company’s purchaser can use the inventory to compare noise levels of equipment before buying or renting. The inventory can also be used for assisting, tracking, and promoting a company’s Buy Quiet purchases.
- A Buy Quiet company policy or procedure: Policy can be an easy and effective way for employers to show commitment to protecting the hearing and well-being of their employees by using the best equipment available.
- Educational materials and promotional tools: These resources should be designed to help inform employees, management, customers, and the community about the importance and benefits of Buy Quiet. NIOSH has developed a series of posters for construction companies to post at their worksites.
- Cost-Benefit Analysis of Buy Quiet programs: In many cases, the quieter piece of equipment is the least expensive when all life cycle costs of the machinery, possible workers’ compensation claims, costs associated with a company’s hearing conservation program, costs of healthcare (such as hearing aids), and lost productivity are counted.
Hearing loss due to noise exposure continues to be the most prevalent occupational disease. By using programs such as Buy Quiet, employers can reduce noise in the workplace and protect workers’ hearing.
Be well, be smart, be 6 feet apart!
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues or see past newsletters at occusafeinc.com/category/newsletter/