What is industrial noise?

Industrial noise is noise associated with industrial processes that can cause hearing damage as a result of the high decibel level, particularly among employees who experience constant prolonged exposures, such as people in the factory. Measures to control industrial noise are necessary to protect workers. Louder noise can also become a nuisance and can be considered noise pollution, in which case a community may require a company to take steps to address it.

The equipment used in a factory can be extremely noisy. Everything from grinders to metal punching devices can be seen in industrial settings, along with things like printing presses, paper cutters, etc. All of this equipment can produce noise at decibel levels high enough to create environmental health and safety concerns. Typically, the factory isolates noise enough to make it inaudible or quiet to outsiders, but this does not address worker safety.

Sound baffles are one method of combating industrial noise. In a factory with high ceilings and lots of exposed metal and wood, noise can bounce around and be amplified. Baffles made of soft materials will absorb sound and make the work environment quieter. Employees may also wear hearing protection, such as earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones, depending on the type of work they do. Headsets are useful for employees who need to be able to communicate, as they can speak into microphones to contact other workers and receive responses through their headsets.

Industrial noise is not just an issue due to hearing loss concerns, although this is an important issue. It can also become a security situation. Loud noise, especially sustained repetitive noise, can be detrimental to concentration, and employees may not be able to focus on tasks. They may also miss safety issues, such as equipment not working properly or someone else on the floor. Loud noise can mask warning cries, abnormal engine sounds, or audible alarms.

Part of the practice of industrial hygiene, an area of ​​occupational health and safety focused on protecting workers in industrial settings, includes industrial noise mitigation. Inspectors can use meters to measure noise levels and determine what types of protection may be needed in a workplace. Simple and inexpensive steps can make the workplace much safer and more comfortable. Workers with concerns about noise levels can discuss them with a supervisor to determine if the workplace needs to take additional noise mitigation measures to protect their safety.

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