In heavy industrial and manufacturing environments, high noise levels can be one of the biggest headaches for workers’ health and safety, as well as overall productivity.

A worker distracted by noise can become irritable, stressed and less productive.  If noise levels are too loud, workers may not hear instructions clearly, or worse, not hear a forklift or other motorized vehicle in their path.

High noise levels over prolonged periods of time can lead to significant hearing loss.  And once hearing is lost, there is no turning back, as this condition is permanent.

That is why it’s important to reduce or remove the noise source so a safe work environment can be maintained.

OSHA guidelines

OSHA has strict guidelines about noise levels and length of exposure to noise based on a worker’s weighted average over an 8-hour day. (Occupational Health and Safety Act 1910.95).

These regulations state that 90 decibels dBa is the highest noise level an employee can be exposed to for 8 hours. If you go just a 5-decibels above that ceiling, you cut exposure time in half. That means an 8- hour workday turns into a 4-hour workday. And that can hurt a company in many ways.

There are ways to tell if your workplace may be too loud. Occupational Health and Safety recommends using a qualified acoustician (an expert in the branch of physics concerned with the properties of sound) to measure the sound levels at your company if you believe you have a sound problem.

The sound is measured where the worker will be exposed to the maximum level for their work day. A sound level meter can measure instantaneous sound levels, but to properly measure noise over time, an audio dosimeter should be used.

Need a quick assessment? The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety also composed a list of questions that can help you get a read on whether your workplace has a noise problem:

Reducing existing noise levels

When a noise problem already exists, surrounding noisy machinery with acoustical materials that provide sound absorbing or sound blocking materials can help. Earplugs are also an option, but employees may find them uncomfortable. They also reduce the ability to detect changes in the sound of equipment and make it difficult to converse with other employees.

One significant way to reduce factory noise is to replace the casters on your material handling carts with CasterShoX™. These casters and wheels reduce noise levels by as much as 90%, cost 20-50% less than conventional spring-loaded casters and can reduce shock loads by up to 80%.

Case Study:

Based on patented ultra-compact shock absorption technologies, the CasterShoX® core is entirely contained within the caster wheel. Tested in industrial settings, CasterShoX® casters reduce noise by as much as 15 dB, a magnitude of reduction providing significant effect in reducing noise-induced hearing loss.

As a result, the National Institute of Health has funded R&D for the development of this innovative product.

Additional benefits of CasterShox:

Keeping sound levels within a reasonable range makes sense in any work environment. Sound levels above acceptable ranges can distract employees and create an unsafe and unhealthy workplace. At worse, it can even lead to permanent hearing loss. By actively reducing noise in the workplace, you’ll be glad to hear your employees will be healthier, happier, and more productive.