What’s Wrong in this Picture?

 In 2021, Tip of the Week

What’s wrong in this picture? Take your time and really look at it. We’ll wait….

We are not being fair. Because there is something wrong in the picture, but the hazard is not obvious. Construction sites are noisy. Do you see anyone wearing hearing protection? We did not see any.

OSHA requires employers to provide protection for their employees when noise exceeds the “action level” which is 85 decibels measured on the A scale (dBA) for an eight-hour time weighted average (TWA). An American National Standards Institute blog states that construction is one of the noisiest industries (https://blog.ansi.org/2018/10/how-loud-is-construction-site-noise/#gref). Although, that does not mean the work you do may not be as equally noisy.

We all are exposed to noise at some point. Using a hair dryer can expose us to as much as 80 dBA. A passing motorcycle can be around 90 dBA. However, we don’t blow our hair dry for eight hours. It rarely takes more than five to ten minutes. It’s the same with motorcycles, it only takes a few minutes for them to pass by. As with many hazardous exposures, it’s the dose that matters.

It is believed that you can be exposed to loud noises up to the action level for up to eight hours. Increase the noise to 91 dBA, and the length of a safe exposure drops to seven hours. Increase that by another six dBA to 97, and the safe exposure drops down to three hours. An exposure of 102 dBA is acceptable for under two hours.

Consider that OSHA estimates the following as safe exposures:

  • An average carpentry work – 89.3 dBA for up to eight hours.
  • Welding – 91.2 dBA for up to seven hours.
  • Grinding masonry – 97.0 dBA for up to three hours.
  • Chipping concrete – 102.9 dBA for about an hour and a half.
To put this into perspective for non-construction workers, ANSI says that the average gas-powered lawn mower operates at about 100 dBA. If you have a large yard that requires you mow it lawn for more than two hours, you should wear hearing protection. Otherwise, you may be damaging your hearing.

Of course, you can use controls as protection from noise. You can substitute a less noisy electrical lawn mower for the gas-powered model. Or you can put a sound barrier between your home and a noisy street. Many companies put sound barriers around noisy equipment and machines. But sometimes your only protection from noise is a hearing protective device, like ear caps or muffs. When those are your only protection – use them.

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