Protecting Yourself from Noise in Construction

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<ul><li><p>OSHA 3498-12N 2011</p></li><li><p>If you are a construction worker, this pocket guideis written for you. Small contractors should alsofind this information helpful. You are encouragedto go to the references in this document and tothe OSHA website for more information.</p><p>This guidance document is not a standardor regulation, and it creates no new legalobligations. The guidance is advisory in nature,informational in content, and is intended tohelp construction workers and supervisorsunderstand and reduce noise exposure on jobsites. Employers are required to comply withsafety and health standards as issued andenforced by either the Federal OccupationalSafety and Health Administration (OSHA), oran OSHA-approved State Plan. In addition,Section 5(a)(1) of The Occupational Safety andHealth Act, the General Duty Clause, requiresemployers to provide their workers with aworkplace free from recognized hazards likelyto cause death or serious physical harm.Employers can be cited for violating theGeneral Duty Clause if there is such a recog-nized hazard and they do not take reasonablesteps to prevent or abate the hazard. However,failure to implement these guidelines is not, initself, a violation of the General Duty Clause.Citations can only be based on standards,regulations, and the General Duty Clause.</p><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p></li><li><p>Contents</p><p>Why is job site noise control important to me? 2How does hearing damage happen? 3How do I know if my tools or job site are toonoisy? 5</p><p>Sound Level Meter and Noise Dosimeter 52-3 Foot Rule and Noise Indicator 6Sound Level Chart 7</p><p>What can be done about job site noise levels? 8Plan Ahead 8Noise Control at the Job Site 9Noise Hazard Control Process 9Maintain and Retrofit Equipment 10</p><p>What can be done if engineering andadministrative controls are not enough? 12</p><p>Proper Selection and Use ofHearing Protection 12Regular Hearing Screenings 13Hearing Protective Devices 14</p><p>My job site is too noisy. What can I do? 16Am I protected if I call OSHA? 17Additional OSHA Assistance 18OSHA Regional Offices 21Appendix: More Information onNoise Protection 23</p><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p></li><li><p>2 WORKER SAFETY SERIES</p><p>Why is job site noise controlimportant to me?</p><p>Exposure to high levels of noise can causepermanent hearing loss. Neither surgery nor ahearing aid can help correct this type of hearingloss. Construction sites have many noisyoperations and can be a significant source ofnoise exposure.</p><p>Loud noise can also reduce work productivityand contribute to workplace accidents bymaking it difficult to hear warning signals.Hearing loss from loud noise limits your abilityto hear high frequencies, understand speech,and reduces your ability to communicate,which can lead to social isolation. Hearing losscan affect your quality of life by interfering withyour ability to enjoy socializing with friends,playing with your children or grandchildren, orparticipating in other activities.</p><p>Damage to your hearing can be prevented, butonce permanent noise-induced hearing lossoccurs, it cannot be cured or reversed. Hearingloss usually occurs gradually, so you may notrealize it is happening until it is too late.</p><p>Noise can also affect your body in other ways.A recent study found that workers persistentlyexposed to excessive occupational noise maybe two-to-three times more likely to suffer fromserious heart disease than workers who werenot exposed.1</p><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>1Gan, W. et al., Exposure to Occupational Noiseand Cardiovascular Disease in the United States:NHANES 1999-2004, Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oem.2010.055269.</p></li><li><p>PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION 3</p><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>You may have hearing loss if: You have a hard time hearing people in</p><p>groups or meetings or if there is back-ground noise.</p><p> People sound as if they are mumbling. You have to ask people to repeat what they</p><p>say. You have trouble understanding others on</p><p>the telephone. You have ringing or noises in one or both</p><p>ears. You have trouble hearing back-up alarms</p><p>or the ringing of a cell phone.</p><p>How does hearing damagehappen?</p><p>A one-time exposure to a sudden powerfulnoise, such as an explosion, may damage yourhearing instantly. Prolonged exposures to loudnoise can lead to a gradual, but permanent,loss of hearing.</p><p>Damage can occur within the ear at noiselevels similar to that of running a lawn mowerfor eight hours. At first, this may cause atemporary loss of hearing that may last as longas 14-16 hours. With repeated exposure to highnoise levels and periodic exposures to veryhigh noise levels (e.g., with the use of nailguns), as is common at most constructionjob sites, your hearing may not fully recover.More often, the loss of hearing occurs slowlyover time from exposure to moderate levels ofnoise. When that happens, the hearing lossbecomes permanent. This is why workplacenoise is sometimes referred to as a stealthlong-term hazard because it is a painless,gradual process.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>4 WORKER SAFETY SERIES</p><p>Hearing loss occurs when cilia, tiny hair cellsthat line the inner ear, are damaged. At first, thedamage happens to the cilia that receive thehigher frequencies. Gradually, noise damagesmore of the ear and affects how speech isheard. If you hear muffled or distorted speechsounds, that may be an indication that asubstantial hearing loss has already occurred.</p><p>In addition to hearing loss, you also mayexperience ringing in the ears. This is calledtinnitus, and can occur even without otherapparent hearing loss.</p><p>Healthy inner ear lined with cilia, tiny hair cellsthat help you hear.</p><p>Inner ear showing damage to the cilia.</p><p>Gra</p><p>ph</p><p>ics</p><p>cou</p><p>rtes</p><p>yo</p><p>fN</p><p>atio</p><p>nal</p><p>Hea</p><p>rin</p><p>gC</p><p>on</p><p>serv</p><p>atio</p><p>nA</p><p>sso</p><p>ciat</p><p>ion</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION 5</p><p>How do I know if my toolsor job site are too noisy?</p><p>Sound intensity is measured in decibels. Whendecibels are adjusted for how the ear sensessound, the sound level intensity is measured asdBA. Decibels are measured on a logarithmicscale, which means that a small increase in thenumber of decibels results in a huge change inthe amount of noise and the potential damageto a persons hearing. So, if the level increasesby 3 dBA this doubles the amount of the noiseand reduces the recommended amount ofexposure time by half.</p><p>Sound Level Meter and Noise DosimeterSafety and healthinspectors measure soundor noise levels using adevice called a sound levelmeter. The microphoneis positioned at the usersear level. Equipment thatis determined to be loudcan be labeled with ahazardous noise sticker.</p><p>OSHA uses noisedosimeters to documentthe average noise expo-sure over your workingday or of a particular taskfor part of your workday.</p><p>OSHA recommends thatworkplace noise levels bekept below 85 dBA as an8-hour time-weightedaverage. As the noise levelincreases, it damages yourhearing more quickly.</p><p>Sound level meter</p><p>Dosimeter</p><p>Imag</p><p>esco</p><p>urt</p><p>esy</p><p>of</p><p>Cas</p><p>ella</p><p>CE</p><p>LIn</p><p>c.,A</p><p>mh</p><p>erst</p><p>,NH</p><p>.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>6 WORKER SAFETY SERIES</p><p>Research indicates that your hearing can bedamaged by regular 8-hour exposures to 85dBA. When noise is as loud as 100 dBA (likea jackhammer or stud welder), it can takerepeated exposures of as little as 1 hour perday to damage your hearing.</p><p>The National Institute for Occupational Safetyand Health (NIOSH) has recommended that allworker exposures to noise should be controlledbelow a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eighthours to minimize occupational noise-inducedhearing loss. NIOSH has found that significantnoise-induced hearing loss occurs at theexposure levels equivalent to the OSHA PELbased on updated information obtained fromliterature reviews. NIOSH also recommends a3 dBA exchange rate so that every increase by3 dBA represents a doubling of the amount ofthe noise and halves the recommended amountof exposure time.</p><p>2-3 Foot Rule and Noise IndicatorWhen a sound level meter is not available, youshould use the 2-to-3 foot rule: Stand about anarms length away from your coworker: If youhave to raise your voice to be heard 2-3 feetaway, you should assume that the sound levelis at or above 85 dBA.</p><p>A personal noise indicator is a warning device.It indicates if your immediate exposure is lessthan or greater than 85 dBA. It flashes green ifthe sound level is under 85 dBA and red whenabove 85 dBA.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION 7</p><p>Sound Level ChartEquipment and daily activities at constructionjob sites can expose workers to high levels ofnoise. Sound levels on the chart below arelisted in decibels (dBA) the larger the number,the higher the volume or decibel level. Howloud the noise is (volume), how long the noiselasts, and how close you are to the noise are allimportant in determining the hazard.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>8 WORKER SAFETY SERIES</p><p>What can be done about jobsite noise levels?</p><p>Plan AheadOne of the best ways to reduce exposure tohazardous noise on a work site is by planningfor potential exposure before activities start.When jobs produce high noise levels, there areways to reduce your exposure other than or inaddition to hearing protectors.</p><p>For instance, your employer or supervisorcan buy materials to build sound barriers orschedule noisy activities during hours whenfewer people are working. Your employer canalso rent or buy quieter equipment.</p><p>Your employer should hold daily or weeklysafety meetings to discuss ways to limit highnoise levels and other hazards. During safetymeetings, the general contractor can ask sub-contractors to describe the planned tasks forthe day or week where hazardous noise mightbe generated, as well as what equipment willbe used; you can use these opportunities to talkabout ways to limit exposure.</p><p>Even changes in the noise level that seem small(e.g., 3 dBA) are actually significant reductionsin the noise.</p><p>Here are some specific ways to limitexposure: Plan to make or use prefabricated noise</p><p>barriers. Ask your employer to buy or rent quieter</p><p>equipment/tools. Limit the hours you work in hazardous</p><p>noise areas.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION 9</p><p> Identify equipment and work areas wheresigns can be posted to make other workersaware of high noise areas.</p><p> Use hearing protection to supplementnoise reduction.</p><p>Noise Control at the Job SiteThe work site is where workers can have themost impact by working with employers toidentify hazardous equipment, conduct hazardassessments, and apply the control processexplained below. Employer support for provid-ing supplies (acoustical insulation, extensioncords, pre-fabricated noise barriers), hand tools,and sufficient set-up time are essential.</p><p>Noise Hazard Control ProcessThe easiest way to help lower noise levels atyour work site is to remember a three-stepnoise hazard control process:</p><p>Reduce It: Reduce the noise by using thequietest equipment available. For example,choose a smaller, quieter generator.</p><p>Move It: Move the equipment farther awaywith the use of extension cords, additionalwelding leads, and air hoses (following cur-rent OSHA standards). Noise levels go downas we increase our distance from a noisyobject. Move the generator farther away orface it in a direction that is away from wheremost people are working. If you are notrequired to be in a high noise area, move toa quieter area.</p><p>Block It: Block the noise by building tempo-rary barriers of plywood or other on-sitematerials to keep the noise from reaching</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>10 WORKER SAFETY SERIES</p><p>workers. Place a five-sided, oversized wood-en box over the generator. Add fire-resistantacoustical absorbing material (foam) insidethe box. If the generator sits on soil or sand,that will help absorb some of the noise.</p><p>Maintain and Retrofit EquipmentProper maintenance of equipment and toolscan result in lower noise levels. Changing seals,lubricating parts, using sharp blades and bits,installing mufflers, and replacing faulty or wornequipment or parts can reduce the noise levelssignificantly on the job site.</p><p>Do you know of equipment on your job sitethat could benefit from regular maintenanceto reduce noise levels? Your employer shouldensure that there is a regular maintenanceprogram and that everyone follows themaintenance schedule.</p><p>Building a plywood barrier</p><p>Ph</p><p>oto</p><p>cou</p><p>rtes</p><p>yo</p><p>fB</p><p>uild</p><p>ItS</p><p>mar</p><p>t</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION 11</p><p>With some ingenuity, even older, noisierequipment can be modified by adding mufflers,new seals, or insulated panels. Employees canuse noise reduction equipment accessorieswhen made available by the employer.Employers can look for ways to reduce thesound intensity of tools in their currentinventory.</p><p>Employers can reduce job site noise levels byfollowing OSHA recommendations: Identify major noise sources and possible</p><p>control solutions. Plan ahead and limit worker exposure as</p><p>much as possible. Perform regular maintenance.</p><p>ReminderOSHA currently allows your employer to relyon any combination of (1) hearing protectivedevices with a hearing conservationprogram, (2) engineering controls, and (3)administrative controls to effectively reduceworker exposures below 90 dBA.</p><p>OSHA also recommends that your employerprovide and that you use hearingprotective devices any time site exposuresmeet or exceed 85 dBA.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>12 WORKER SAFETY SERIES</p><p>What can be done ifengineering and</p><p>administrative controlsare not enough?</p><p>Proper Selection andUse of Hearing Protection</p><p>If other control strategies to reduce noise levelscant be used or fail to reduce noise levelsbelow OSHAs permissible exposure limits(PELs), wear a hearing protective device (29CFR 1926.52). There are many different types ofhearing protection. Each type is designed forcertain noise conditions. They include the typeslisted in the following table. But remember unless you wear them properly and wear themall the time in high noise areas, the devices willnot be effective.</p><p>Convenience and comfort are important forfrequent use of hearing protective devices.Earmuffs and foam earplugs in most cases offerthe most noise reduction. However, preformedplugs or canal caps may be more convenientwhere construction work generates moderatedaily average noise levels. There is no onedevice that is the best type for all situations.</p><p>Your employer is responsible for selecting,fitting, and maintaining hearing protectivedevices and must provide them to you at nocost and train you in their use (29 CFR1926.101).</p><p>If you are not provided hearing protection forhigh noise work tasks, ask for it. If the employerrefuses to provide hearing protectors, you canrequest an OSHA inspection.</p></li><li><p>Occupational Safety andHealth Administration</p><p>PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION 13</p><p>Contractors and workers should consider thefollowing when selecting and wearing protec-tive gear: the no...</p></li></ul>