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Written By: Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President
October 23, 2018
In the U.S., OSHA has set regulations on worker noise exposure. The usual sound measurements method is to use a noise dosimeter attached to a worker that measures noise exposure as the person moves about the work area. However, this does nothing to identify the source and location of the noise. It also does not address non-OSHA noise issues such as community noise, noise frequencies, or noise control. When conducting a noise survey, a noise map is another essential means of identifying noise sources and where the noise exposure may be greatest.
A starting point is a floor plan of the work space where potential excessive noise is located. Specific noise readings can be logged on the floor plan. Since few construction or industrial settings have steady static noise, it is usually best to list both 1) the average noise level, and 2) the range from low to high. Make sure that the readings are in the same settings as the noise dosimeters. OSHA recommends all readings by in decibel A-scale—slow response setting.
A noise map is valuable in that it both gives us the ability to identify the noise levels that contribute to a worker’s cumulative exposure AND it indicates where noise reduction efforts need to be focused to achieve OSHA compliance and reduce the possibility of work related hearing loss among employees. (The OSHA noise standard is 29 CFR 1910.95). If noise levels do exceed the 85 db-A Hearing Conservation level or the 90 db-A regulatory limit, an octave band or 1/3 octave band analysis is important to identify specific frequencies that need to be reduced.
I firmly believe that any Hearing Conservation effort in a commercial setting must include both noise dosimetry and noise mapping as the minimum effort to effectively control worker noise exposure and prevent hearing loss. These efforts can be added to other hearing conservation activities such as octave band analysis, audiometric testing/sampling, hearing protection, worker training and noise central engineering.
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