June is National Safety Month. Today we’re looking at the hazards of excessive noise on the job. Routine exposure to loud noise in the workplace can not only have a negative impact, it can be harmful to workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that 22 million US workers are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of noise in the workplace each year. 

Having tools to continually measure sound levels, display readings and alert occupants that noise levels are exceeding a designated value can make the difference between healthy and hazardous.

Where is Noise an Issue on the Job?

  • Manufacturing/factories – Hearing loss accounts for 1 out of 9 workplace illnesses in the manufacturing sector!
  • Construction – Whether building a new site from the ground up, or upgrading a colonial home’s kitchen, this sector involve tools and equipment that routinely exceed safe levels of 85db.
  • Mining – One study on noise in mining sites revealed that more than 40% of all workers monitored were subject to noise exposures above 90dB.
    • Concert venues & Nightclubs – Noise levels up to 120dB can affect not only performers but also everyone from merchandise vendors to foodservice to security to cleaning staff.
    • Foundries & Forges – From hammers and presses to the combustion roar of furnaces, foundry workers face numerous noise hazards. Noise levels have been measured at 114 dB nearby workers at knocking out and cleaning operations.
  • Airports – Jets and propeller planes alike, airplanes make a lot of noise – up to 140db of noise. Ear protection is a must for airplane staff—especially anyone on the tarmac.
  • Sports facilities – Some stadiums have a reputation for being the loudest because of the construction materials used and the sheer number of attendees, not to mention fan enthusiasm. In late September 2014, Kansas City Chiefs fans' broke Seattle Seahawks' fans' record of having the loudest outdoor stadium by creating 142.2 decibels worth of noise at Arrowhead Stadium. Yes, that’s jetliner-level noise. Working at these venues can lead to extensive exposure.                

Tools for Workplace Noise Safety:

Whether workers are exposed to harmful sound like large and loud mechanical equipment or loud music at a club or concert venue, there are numerous ways to monitor noise. Check out several different options from Extech:


1. Enforce Noise Regulations with Visible Alerts:  

Use a table-top/wall-mounted Extech Sound Level Alert (SL130G) to monitor noise levels and enforce compliance in a range of settings. This monitor with bright visual alert and oversized LCD is used for employee protection in loud workplaces such as factories or nightclubs; for preserving quality of care in hospital settings; and for routine compliance testing.

Along with a very large numerical decibel readout with oversized “OVER” indicator, the Sound Level Alert uses four high-intensity jumbo LEDs that flash green or red when levels are exceeded. Learn more: http://www.extech.com/sl130g

2. Handheld Sound Level Meters—Ideal for Spot Testing

Having a handy sound level meter can make it easy to measure sound levels at different parts of a site and at different distances from a noise source. Here is a sampling of Extech noise meters: 

The Extech SL10 is a pocket-sized meter that’s so small, it’s easy to always have handy wherever you go. With one-button operation, you can quickly get a reading anytime . http://www.extech.com/sl10

For very advanced testing, workplace safety professionals use the Extech 407780A, an Integrating Sound Level Meter. This meter goes beyond decibel readings, offering advanced metrics such as A & C weighting, Leq (equivalent continuous sound level) and SEL (sound exposure level). As a datalogger, this meter can be set up on a tripod for prolonged readings over a job shift for example. And with USB connectivity, it’s easy to transfer data logs to a computer for noise level analysis.

3. Personal Noise Dosimeters

Dosimeters are sound level meters you wear throughout a job shift. This helps workplace health and safety professionals determine the actual levels a person is exposed to in their day-to-day. For some, it’s the best way to quantify workplace noise exposure.

Extech’s SL355
is a very compact and lightweight Personal Noise Dosimeter that’s perfect for OSHA “noise accumulation” surveys throughout a job shift. USB connectivity makes it easy to download readings. http://www.extech.com/sl355

4. Mini Sound Level Datalogger

Imagine a sound level meter the size of a USB memory stick. Extech’s cleverly designed 407760 mini logger records readings wherever you place it. This accurate device is ideal for “set and forget” noise logging scenarios and also at sites where an unobtrusive measurement instrument is needed to minimize distractions. http://www.extech.com/407760   

To see over 20 sound level meters, loggers and accessories, visit Extech’s website: http://extech.com/instruments/categories.asp?catid=18


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Comment by Sky Swendsboe on June 28, 2015 at 10:39pm
Vatche, Thanks for writing this post!

I work in a server room with noise levels between 75 and 82DB(+/-1), for 12 hours. This definitely is great technology for supervisors to use!



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