Noise Safety Standards

Noise Safety Standards address the many factors involved in preventing injury or discomfort resulting from the effects of sound. Whether by designing devices in such a way as to reduce noise output, manipulating that noise before it reaches people, or through the use of personal protective equipment such as earmuffs, noise safety takes many forms, each tailored to meet the specific types of noise present in an environment.

Noise safety standards seek to reduce the occurrence of the negative effects of noise, ranging from temporary distraction to short-term hearing loss, all the way through to permanent hearing loss or deafness.

While environments such as construction sites are obvious examples for the need for noise safety standards, other environments, such as office workplaces, present situations where the need for noise safety isn’t immediately obvious, and, as a result, not always implemented to the detriment of the employees working there. Furthermore, noise safety standards come into play not only in determining where noise should be attenuated but also in guiding the process, from the initial measurement of noise, to the options available to reduce it, their effectiveness, implementation, and overall result of noise safety programs.

One major developer of noise safety standards is the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Founded in 1929, ASA has been publishing noise safety standards for decades.

Hearing Protection Standards

Hearing Protection Standards guide noise safety when noise cannot be sufficiently reduced due to the intrinsic properties of a particular action or environment. Tools used at, for example, construction sites, frequently cannot be made any quieter, and the worker’s proximity to the tool means the sound cannot readily be attenuated either. This leaves the utilization of hearing protection as a major component of a noise safety arsenal. Other times, people are only temporarily subjected to loud noises, making it so that the use of individual hearing protection is more effective than dealing with the noise itself. Key examples of this case are demolitions, where the noise is very loud but short lived, or rooms that are always loud but only require human presence at limited intervals.

Workplace Noise Safety Standards

Workplace Noise Safety standards address potentially harmful or distracting noise at workplaces that are relatively low-noise. Office environments, while certainly quieter than a construction site, still constantly subject employees to significant levels of noise, especially since office employees don’t generally wear hearing protection. The combination of background chatter, printers or other machinery, and other human activities such as movement combine to create a noise level that, while unlikely to lead to damage, is capable of affecting concentration, and therefore productivity. Furthermore, isolated sources of loud noise such as server rooms present another challenge. Workplace noise safety standards guide the planning of office layouts, appropriate material selection for walls and ceiling, and the prediction of future noise levels.

Noise Exposure Safety Standards

Noise Exposure Safety Standards guide the measurement and assessment of noise levels, potentially leading to the determination that a noise safety program is required, or gauging the ongoing results of a noise safety program. The standardization of noise measurement techniques allows for results to be confidently compared against each other. Furthermore, standards set out measurement techniques that are designed to provide valuable information regarding how human physiology in particular is affected by noise, rather than simply measuring decibels.

Hydrodynamic Noise Safety Standards

Hydrodynamic Noise Safety Standards deal with noise generated by the movement of liquids or gases through valves, pipes, and other associated configurations. The standards address specific methods of measurement, including the underlying assumptions and environments in which these methods are applicable. Hydrodynamic noise safety standards are used heavily in industrial and laboratory environments, as well as for shipboard systems.

Noise Control Safety Standards

Noise Control Safety Standards come into play when the generation of noise cannot be avoided and must be addressed in some manner. Common solutions include the use of silencers or enclosures/cabins. Noise control is vital to protecting the safety of workers, as well as the comfort levels of those outside the workplace but still close enough to be affected.