“Sound” includes any subtle disruption to the air pressure waves around us that cause the tympanic membrane in the ear to vibrate. When we hear a sound, it’s because an object near us has created a pressure wave by moving against another object. Sound is obviously beneficial in many ways, but “noise” is not. Noise can be described as any sound that is unwanted, distracting, too loud, or dangerous in some way.
In the workplace, noise can represent a serious hazard to productivity, effective communication, and worker safety. On the simplest level, employees who are subjected to loud noises can suffer from serious and potentially permanent hearing loss. But there are several ways in which noise can create hazards that aren’t quite as obvious. For example, noise levels that interfere with conversation can prevent employees from receiving clear instructions and warnings, and loud noises are often accompanied by vibrations, which can create injuries and health hazards beyond hearing loss.
Depending on the pitch, frequency and repetition, some noises can increase blood pressure and elevate hormone levels associated with stress, and some can lead to aggravation and burnout that could have otherwise been avoided.
Controlling Noise Levels
While attempting to control noise levels in the workplace and protect your employees, consider the multiple factors that generate noise and put employees at risk of harmful exposure. To the make the changes necessary, will you focus on altering the environment, providing ear protection to the employees, or both? Before you begin the noise mitigation process, conduct an audit to determine where your workplace stands in relation to acceptable noise levels.
Regardless of the audit results, here are four signs that your workplace is too loud:
- Your employees have to raise their voices to be heard in the workplace.
- Your employees experience ringing in their ears at the end of a shift.
- Your employees struggle to hear conversation details in crowded places where distractions and competing noises interfere.
So how much noise is too much?
In Canada, noise levels that reach 90 decibels should be limited to an exposure timeframe of eight hours per day. This timeline decreases as decibel rates increase, so by the time the noise volume reaches 96 decibels, the exposure rate should be limited to two hours per day. At 105 decibels, exposure should be limited to no more than 15 minutes per eight hour shift.
For more information on workplace place noise exposure, visit the website for the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety. In the meantime, contact the materials handling staffing and workplace management experts at Liftow.