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Exposure to Noise



Every Monday by
Grain Journal
Editor Kendall Trump

Exposure to noise is measured in units of sound pressure levels called decibels, using an A-weighted sound levels (dBA). 

There are several ways to control and reduce worker exposure to noise in a workplace where exposure has been shown to be excessive.

Engineering controls involve modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker's ear. 

Examples of inexpensive, effective engineering controls:

  • Choose low-noise tools and machinery
  • Maintain and lubricate machinery and equipment (e.g., oil bearings)
  • Place a barrier between the noise source and employee (e.g., sound walls or curtains)

  • Enclose or isolate the noise source.

Administrative controls are changes in the workplace or schedule that reduce or eliminate the worker exposure to noise.


  • Operate noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed

  • Limit the amount of time a person spends at a noise source;
  • Provide quiet areas where workers can gain relief from hazardous noise sources; and
  • Control noise exposure through distance is often an effective, yet simple and inexpensive administrative control. Specifically, for every doubling of the distance between the source of noise and the worker, the noise is decreased by 6 dBA.

The following references provide information on measuring noise exposure and recognizing and controlling workplace noise hazards.

  • Health Hazard Evaluations: Noise and Hearing Loss, 1986-1997. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-106, (November 1998). Presents summaries, by industry, of different health hazard evaluations performed for exposures to noise.
  • Industrial Noise Control Manual. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 79-117, (December 1978). Contains essential information about noise control technology, as well as a collection of 61 case histories describing successful noise control projects.
  • Case studies. Health and Safety Executive (HSE), United Kingdom. Extensive index of noise control case studies from HSE.
  • Online Noise Databases. EARLAB, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Auditory Demonstration Laboratory.

  • Engineering Noise Control. Provides an in depth look at noise control and has multiple examples of designs of various noise controls.

  • Industrial Noise Control, Fundamentals and Applications. Bell, Lewis H. and Bell, Douglas H. Marcel Decker, Inc., (1994).

Source: OSHA - Occupational Noise Exposure: Exposure & Controls

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