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February 13, 2014 987 Views

When I think of noise in my life, a couple of situations pop into my head: (1) all those concerts I attended when I was in high school and college, and (2) anything involving my kids. But if I take it a step further and look at noise in the workplace, there are so many places that noise comes into play.

My brother has worked in the process control industry for years. He tells employees often, “The Number One variable that gets measured in process is temperature. It’s everywhere. Look for a situation where the customer needs to measure temperature, and you’ll find a place where our instruments fit.”

The other day, in a meeting, my brother said to me, “In your industry, noise monitoring is the new temperature.” In talking to our industrial hygiene consultant customers, they’re measuring sound levels and noise, indoors and out, for a variety of reasons, and the topic comes up more often than not.

Workplace noise monitoring

Millions of workers each year are exposed to levels of sound and noise in the workplace that can cause hearing loss. Working in an environment with excessive levels of short-term noise or long-term high sound levels can lead to OSHA permissible exposure level (PEL) violations, and leave a company liable for covering an employee’s treatment for hearing loss.

Area sound level monitoring and noise exposure monitoring is critical in these situations to help determine where workers need to wear hearing protection devices, and where the company needs to provide such equipment. The company can then take the necessary steps to avoid, prevent, or mitigate the excessive noise levels in the workplace. These noise studies can also show where equipment is in disrepair: Noisy equipment can mean there are parts broken or loose, or are on the brink of breakdown or failure. It can help identify areas where energy is being wasted (overworked motors), or potentially dangerous worker conditions may exist.

Plus, with more companies developing hearing protection program standards, a workplace sound level or noise exposure test is an important part of adding new equipment to your operations.

NIOSH has a cool web app that shows you the effects of different noises on hearing. It shows, for example, that using a chainsaw for just two minutes without proper hearing protection can cause damage to the human ear.

Environmental noise monitoring

Noise exposure from construction sites, road traffic, entertainment venues, and heavy machinery can contribute to noise pollution and, with time, hearing loss. The EPA defines noise pollution as anything that either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life. Problems related to noise exposure include stress related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption, and lost productivity.

In the northern states of the Midwest US, we’re seeing a growing need for environmental noise monitoring systems used in conjunction with perimeter dust monitoring in the frac sand mining industry. In several cases, our environmental consultants have asked use to either integrate sound level meters into our perimeter dust monitoring kits, or build them custom outdoor sound level monitoring kits that can record the long-term noise levels while protecting the devices from harsh weather.

So, sound is the new temperature… or sound is the new black. However you call it, outdoor sound level and noise exposure monitoring is an important part of your environmental monitoring plans.

Learn more about sound level and noise monitoring instruments to here.