If sound is what we hear, then noise is unwanted sound. The
difference between sound and noise is very subjective and varies by person, time
and place. A rock concert may be an enjoyable sound to one person and an
aggravating noise to someone else.
Noise is one of the most common occupational health hazards. In excessively
noisy environments, permanent hearing loss is the main health concern. Noise
creates health and safety hazards by:
|•||increasing stress levels
|•||impairing communication and
|•||causing accidents due to distractions
(sudden, unexpected noises)
|•||causing headaches, nausea and hearing
Controlling noise hazards
To control the negative effects of noise exposure, noise levels should be
reduced to acceptable levels. In some cases, technology and engineering
modifications can be used to modify the source of the noise. Personal hearing
protection (such as earmuffs or plugs) may also provide temporary protection and
relief while other methods of reducing workplace noise are being investigated.
As a first step in dealing with noise, it is important to identify areas or
activities where excessive exposure to noise occurs. Noise exposure guidelines
have been developed that recommend the maximum duration that should be permitted
for various decibel (dB) levels of noise. In Ontario, the workplace limit for
noise is 85 dB over an 8-hour period.
Decibel levels of some common sounds
|Sound pressure levels (dB)
for average populations
Rustle of leaf
Window air conditioner
Computer print room
Jet engine at 30 m
Common sources of noise at work and home include:
|•||lawnmower/snow blower/leaf blower
Here are some tips to help minimize the effects of noise:
|•||Set up noisy equipment in a separate
|•||Lower the volume on the
|•||Maintain equipment in good working
|•||Encourage people to speak in lowered
voices and to have conversations in areas that will not disturb others.
|•||Use doors and dividers to reduce or
redirect sound away from workstations.
|•||Use earplugs for high noise activities.
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