Protecting Workers' Hearing Health with Acoustical Products
Industrial spaces — and their occupants — can benefit from sound-absorbing acoustical products.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States.
Given the structure of typical industrial and manufacturing workspaces, hazardous noise levels come as no surprise in this sector. NIOSH has found that:
- Approximately 18% of all manufacturing workers have hearing difficulty.
- About 11% of all manufacturing workers have tinnitus.
- About 20% of noise-exposed tested manufacturing workers have hearing loss that impacts day-to-day activities.
- 14% of noise-exposed tested manufacturing workers have hearing impairment in both ears.
Large, cavernous factory spaces with metal walls and ceilings, concrete floors, and plenty of noise-producing machinery and HVAC systems combine to serve up the perfect environment for excessive sound reverberation.
Workers can’t simply turn off their ears. To help protect their long-term hearing health from this invisible hazard, companies must control background noise like fans, pipes, and vibration as well as reduce sound reflection on the factory floor from hammers, drills, saws, and machinery. Work headphones simply don’t offer enough protection.
Lowering industrial noise with acoustical products reduces prolonged exposure to high-decibel sound levels that can lead to hearing impairment.
“Industrial noise can be some of the most difficult to understand and treat,” explains MBI’s Chuck Splain. “Facility owners typically want to treat only the source of noise (e.g., the large press next to a worker) because they don't understand reverberation. Sounds can compound to create noise levels that not only adversely affect the person next to the machine, but every single person in the facility.” Ideally, when treating industrial spaces, you should strive to bring the overall reverberation time down to an acceptable level.
Fortunately, large room industrial acoustical applications can do the trick. Splain says, “Acoustic solutions for industrial spaces are typically done with MBI's most cost-effective products. Our PVC encapsulated baffles and Spectrum Acoustical Panels have excellent acoustical characteristics and are easily cleaned.” These acoustic solutions are made from sound-absorbing material to prevent sound from bouncing around the room’s four walls. As a result, the adverse health effects of noise pollution are avoidable.
“Retaining an Acoustical Engineer can be critical to solving industrial noise control problems. Taking proper measurements and using the proper equipment can save the owner money in the long run versus multiple inadequate solutions applied haphazardly over time,” adds Splain.
Case Study: Conveyer & Caster, Westlake, OH
When material handling manufacturer Conveyer & Caster outgrew its original facility in Cleveland, Ohio, the operation moved to a 75,000 sq. ft. facility in Westlake, Ohio. While the massive space was filled with exceptional features, it did not include acoustical products. A steel roof and concrete floors along with industrial hammering provided a problematic, unsafe sound environment. In addition, Conveyer & Caster has an on-site experience center where the team entertains clients. This room had unbearable reverb time.