Discover what a noise hazard is, its types, implications to human health and the environment, standards that guide and govern it, and how one can manage or limit exposure.
Published 26 May 2023
A noise hazard refers to the exposure to excessive and prolonged levels of noise that has the potential to harm human health. It can be present in various settings, including workplaces, recreational activities, and residential areas. Typically, noise hazards are measured in decibels (dB), a unit of measurement for sound intensity.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set legal limits on occupational noise exposure in the workplace to protect workers from its harmful effects. Hence, noise hazards can be considered workplace hazards as workers in high- and low-risk industries alike get exposed to noise.
Various Types of Noise Hazards
While there are various ways to categorize noise hazards depending on the situation, level of exposure, and severity of their effects, the following are the most common noise hazard examples and types to note:
This type of noise is generated in the workplace that can cause hearing damage and other negative health effects to workers. Typically, it’s produced by machinery, equipment, tools, or processes involved in industrial or manufacturing operations.
In addition to the direct health effects, occupational noise can lead to decreased productivity, communication difficulties, and other safety hazards. Hence, noise safety programs and control measures are encouraged and are considered the responsibility of employers to protect workers’ health and safety.
This type of noise refers to the sound generated by leisure activities created and participated in by people for enjoyment and socialization opportunities. Such activities include the following:
Recreational noise can lead to hearing loss, sleep disturbance, stress, annoyance, and other health problems. Also, it can have negative impacts on wildlife and disturb the natural soundscapes of ecosystems if proper measures aren’t implemented.
This refers to any unwanted noise or excessive sound levels created by human activities or natural sources in the environment. While this can negatively affect human health, it can also disrupt the environment, including animal behavior and feeding patterns.
A few common examples of where environmental noise comes from are the following:
To mitigate such, measures such as noise barriers, zoning, and noise-reducing technologies can be used.
This refers to the unwanted noise carrying a sudden sharp sound often caused by a brief, sudden increase in decibels. Some examples include a sledgehammer blow, explosion, or gunfire.
Also, this type of noise is most prevalent in the construction and demolition industries. Workers in these sectors use heavy-duty equipment and perform disruptive processes that create impulse noises.
It’s important to note that the severity of health effects depends on the intensity and duration of the noise hazard exposure. Some of these notable implications include the following:
To help employers establish effective noise safety measures and provide a safe workplace, the following standards and regulations for each country or region apply:
Some steps that employers can take are the following:
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
Using powerful tools and platforms, organizations can improve the way they manage workers’ exposure to noise hazards and perform proactive initiatives to ensure their health and safety in the workplace.
As an operations platform, SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) lets safety officers, health professionals, employers, and workers do the following and more:
Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.
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