Yes, that chatterbox sitting in the cubicle next to you sure can be annoying!
But noise in the workplace can be a much more serious matter. Especially if you’re working with heavy machinery. Or if you are on a pit crew for the Indy 500 or if you’re a roadie for a rock and roll band.
If you’re ever in doubt about potential damage to your hearing, don’t be embarrassed to wear earplugs, says Mike Hartley, a data management coordinator for Ear Technologies, Inc. in Boone, North Carolina.
Ear Technologies conducts annual hearing tests for employees for manufacturing companies on the U.S. East Coast, making sure their job responsibilities don’t cause hearing loss.
“A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t hear someone talking who is an arm’s length away from you, you need to use hearing protection,” Hartley says. “I’ve had to wear ear plugs at church before when the guitars and drums were a little over the top.”
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to have a Hearing Conservation Program if the workplace conditions involve noise levels of 85 decibels or louder. According to OSHA:
“Hearing conservation programs strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves. Employers are required to measure noise levels; provide free annual hearing exams, hearing protection, and training; and conduct evaluations of the adequacy of the hearing protectors in use. Research indicates that workplaces with appropriate and effective hearing conservation programs have higher levels of worker productivity and a lower incidence of absenteeism.”
OSHA says that 30 million American workers need to monitored for occupational exposure to hazardous noise levels. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have been 125,000 cases of permanent hearing damage suffered by workers who did not take preventative measures.
Ear Technologies focuses on monitoring many of North Carolina’s furniture, textile, plastic and metalworking plants. The company’s audiologists measure the decibel levels at various spots on a factory floor and report the data to Hartley, who logs it on a detailed floor plan.
Hartley either receives the floor plans from his clients as DWG files and modifies them — or he draws them from scratch. In both cases, he says he prefers to use DraftSight, a professional-grade free 2D CAD program from Dassault Systèmes.
For noise levels of 85-90 decibels, employees are required to annually monitor their hearing. For noise levels at 90 decibels and above, employees must wear hearing protection — their choice of simple foam plugs, headphones or custom-made molded inserts.
Here’s a comparison of what 90 decibels means:
DECIBEL LEVELS FOR EVERYDAY NOISE*
10 dB — Normal breathing
20 dB — Rustling leaves, mosquito
30 dB — Whisper
40 dB — Stream, refrigerator humming
50-60 dB — Quiet office
50-65 dB — Normal conversation
60-65 dB — Laughter
70 dB — Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer
80 dB — Garbage disposal, city traffic noise
84 dB — Diesel truck
Prolonged exposure to any noise above 85 dB can cause gradual hearing loss.
88 dB — Subway, motorcycle
85-90 dB — Lawnmower
100 dB — Train, garbage truck
Regular exposure of more than 1 minute risks permanent hearing loss.
103 dB — Jet flyover at 100 feet
105 dB — Snowmobile
110 dB — Jackhammer
120 dB — Thunder
110-140 dB — Rock concerts
130 dB — Jet takeoff, shotgun firing
* SOURCE: National Institutes of Health
Ear Technologies runs Hearing Conservation Programs for 250 companies, with sizes ranging from 10 employees to 600. You can see a sample page of his report on woodworking hazards here:
Hartley, a career engineer trained in AutoCAD programs, said he is appreciative that DraftSight is free given that drafting and modifying DWG files are a minor part of his reports.
“I just couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on a CAD program given my current responsibilities. I learned how to use AutoCAD about a hundred years ago,” he jokes. “I like the layout and user-friendliness of DraftSight. It’s very intuitive.”
Hartley adds that he has also recently called on DraftSight to make the plans for his kitchen cabinets and for his hobby of building plastic models of ships such as the U.S.S. Arizona and the Titanic.
“Before World War II, American battleships would have numbers on their turrets so they could be identified by U.S. spotter planes,” he explains. “No one had the font anywhere so I drew it myself in DraftSight to make sure everything was historically accurate.”
You just never know when DraftSight will come in handy!
(If your company needs to implement a Hearing Conservation Program, you can contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org).