Noise is damaging to hearing as well as productivity

soundproofingYour employees' hearing is a precious possession, and there is much you can do within your workplace to protect it. Industrial safety is affected, in various ways, by the level and quality of noise present in the working environment.

Soundproofing can be provided for reasons of comfort and/or necessity. In the industrial world, the use of soundproofing equipment is usually driven by necessity since the levels of sound are often so high that hearing loss is a very real risk.

As an employer, you need to ascertain the needs of your workers: Do they require complete absence of sound, or just a low enough volume to allow employees to hear each other? Is this noise issue a permanent situation or temporary (i.e., just the one project)? Will the soundproofing be silencing noise created by equipment or people?

Product quality, as well as accidents, are at stake

Noise can be very distracting for many people and, as a result, can lead to errors. Your company doesn't need any more obstacles standing between production and the highest quality of product.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) dictates that employers must provide hearing protection, at the very minimum, starting at 85 decibels, but that depends on the octave band.

There is more than one way to solve the issue of noise control. Distance is an obvious starting point. Can you move the source of the offending noise somewhere else, or move the employees away from that source? If not, you should then be looking for ways to deflect the sound waves or stop them altogether.

Sound barriers

Sound barriers are the most common way of dealing with dangerously high decibels. In the early days, sound barriers were made out of wood or cork. Today many materials are available, with just as many ways to employ these materials.

Soundproofing materials come in spray, sheet, tape, roll or solid form. Many are very easy to work with; maintenance staff at your organization should have no problem building anything you need with any form of soundproofing material. Most manufacturers of these products also offer installation advice and instructions.

Noise cancellation

Noise cancellation is a recent technology in which the offending sound is matched with the appropriate opposite sound, virtually canceling it out. This is a tricky endeavor and you should call the professionals in this field.

The process of cancelling out noise could be as simple as mounting the machine on proper pads to minimize vibrations and the resulting noise. Some manufacturers also offer sound barriers as an option for their products.

The testing of materials, sound equipment or even calibrating electronics can be best handled within an anechoic chamber, which is a room that completely lacks an echo.

If you need only a small anechoic chamber, you can have your maintenance workers build it by purchasing good materials and multi-layering them. You can also purchase sound booths or acoustic enclosures in various sizes. However, if your company needs a large anechoic chamber, it's probably best to go to a professional. Proper fixtures, furniture and flooring will all affect your end result in controlling the unwanted noise.

Sound damping

Sound damping is a very common method of noise control. Open-cell foam can be used to dampen the noise, forcing the sound waves to bounce through many layers, in different directions, before they get out.

Multi-layering with different materials is also useful since this dampens the sound quite dramatically. Many products used for soundproofing are actually standard products such wood, drywall, wallpaper and glue; they bond to other materials to give this multi-layered effect.

Most major cities have companies that specialize in the installation of soundproofing. You might be prudent to pay one to conduct an audit of your facility. They will most likely see things you don't around noise issues and control solutions.

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