Noise Pollution: What is That?
Everyone has experienced noise pollution and its adverse effects on physical and mental health. A fire alarm going off in the middle of the night keeps you awake. A rock concert that was just a little bit too loud that leaves your ears ringing the next day. These are just a couple of many examples of how excessive and extended exposure to noise, also referred to as noise pollution, can have detrimental effects on human physical and mental health. While most are familiar with noise pollution as the noise created by freeway and airplane traffic or construction projects, the most prevalent sources of excessive noise pollution are typically industrial facilities. It is for that exact reason the state agencies like CAL/OSHA carefully regulate occupational exposure limits (OEL) and impose hefty penalties on companies who do not adequately protect their workers.
Noise monitoring has three crucial goals:
1. Protecting humans, wildlife, and overall environmental health from noise pollution that would interfere with our daily activities,
2. Protecting us from long-term damage caused by extended exposure to excessive noise, and
3. Protecting us from future increases in noise pollution would reduce our general quality of life.
In occupational settings, workers are required to wear hearing protection if the level of noise they are exposed to is greater than the occupational exposure limits (OEL) set by each state’s governing agency. In California, those OEL would be found in Title 8: Section 5096: California Code of Regulations set forth by Cal/OSHA. For most industries, the OEL is 85 dBA (Decibels).
A hearing conservation program is required if hearing protection is deemed necessary. A solid hearing conservation program will incorporate an initial noise assessment, protocols and operating procedures for controlling noise, selection of appropriate hearing protection, hazard training and education of employees, regular inspection and required maintenance, and meticulous record-keeping. Workplaces should be reevaluated for noise pollution levels if there are any modifications or renovations done to the workspace, the new equipment has been added, and/or changes to operating procedures that have led to extended worker exposure times.
The effectiveness of your hearing protection is largely dependent on proper fit, being worn properly, and being worn when necessary. Periodic removal or improper wear leads to short windows of exposure to noise pollution that can still have severe long-term impacts on a worker’s hearing. As part of any hearing conservation program, regular hearing protector assessments should be performed. These hearing protector assessments can help workers choose between the many types of hearing protectors available depending on factors like suitability to the level of noise in a work environment, comfort, and ease of use. However, the most significant factor is that the hearing protector provides the required level of noise reduction.
Having already helped countless companies implement hearing conservation programs across a multitude of industries, A-Tech’s certified noise experts have the experience and education to help both new and existing companies develop hearing conservation programs, perform hearing protector assessments, sound monitoring, hazardous noise training for employees, and implement necessary noise controls.
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- “California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5096. Exposure Limits for Noise.” California Department of Industrial Relations, 2021, www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5096.html.
- “California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5097. Hearing Conservation Program.” California Department of Industrial Relations, 2021, dir.ca.gov/title8/5097.html.
- “Hearing Protectors: OSH Answers.” Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2021, www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/ppe/ear_prot.html.