Industrial workers often face a range of hazards each day, from chemical exposure to operating heavy machinery to elevated noise levels. While many employers are aware that persistent exposure to elevated noise levels is destructive to employee health, eliminating industrial noise may seem impossible. The good news is that there are many effective—and completely possible—strategies to reduce noise in industrial settings.
Strategy One: Modify Processes
One of the first—and most cost-effective—strategies to employ in minimizing noise levels is modifying processes. Leaders of manufacturing, construction, and other high-noise workplaces can determine what processes they have in place that could be altered to reduce noise. A few examples of revised processes could be:
- Establishing a policy to only purchase equipment that emits low noise levels.
- Limiting workers’ time in areas with high noise volumes.
Strategy Two: Substitute the Equipment
Outdated and otherwise subpar equipment and machinery can produce excessive levels of noise. If financially possible, employers can reduce noisy environments exponentially by swapping out old or poorly performing equipment with new, quieter machinery.
Strategy Three: Repair the Equipment
Sometimes, purchasing new equipment simply isn’t within the budget. Employers can still minimize noise levels by performing routine preventive maintenance and regular inspections. These steps will uncover failing, subpar, damaged, or worn components that may be leading to excessive noise. Needing new bellows in an exhaust system is one example of how poorly performing parts contribute to noise pollution.
Strategy Four: Modify the Equipment and the Environment
In addition to making repairs, employers can also modify industrial equipment to reduce noise levels. Modifications can include:
- Damping vibrating machine panels.
- Installing silencers on appropriate exhaust components and blowing nozzles.
- Reducing drop heights.
- Lining metal components with rubber to prevent metal-on-metal impact.
- Installing components to isolate vibrating machinery (ex. antivibration mounts).
- Enclosing noisy machinery with an insulated room or an acoustic enclosure.
Strategy Five: Modify the Environment
Simple modifications can go a long way in creating a quieter workplace. Examples of these strategic alterations include:
- Hanging open-cell foam or wool panels in high-noise areas.
- Installing barriers to block sound.
- Repositioning noisy equipment to a place that’s farther away from where workers spend the majority of their time (if possible.)
If it is not possible to enclose, repair, or modify noisy equipment and machinery, employers can look into acoustically-treated enclosures designed specifically for personnel. These enclosures allow workers to spend the vast majority of their time, or their breaks, in a sound-protected space.