Workplace Noise - Article highlighting hazards and minimization of workplace noise; including ambient noise, therapeutic sounds, nature sounds, tension relief, stress reduction, noise reduction, acoustic relaxation, soothing sound, calming, fountains, sound spa, feng, shui, feng shui, tranquility, waterfalls. Adjustable Bed, Memory Foam Mattress, Beds and Pillows - Natural Back Pain Relief Products - self-care products

Workplace Noise

"Noise" can be defined very simply as unwanted sound. Office workers are subjected to many noise sources including video display terminals, high-speed printers, telephones, fax machines, and human voices.

Noise can produce tension and stress as well as damage to hearing at high noise levels. For noise levels in offices, the most common effects are interference with speech communication, annoyance, and distraction from mental activities. The annoying effect of noise can decrease performance or increase errors in some task situations. If the tasks require a great deal of mental concentration, noise can be detrimental to performance. Government standards have set limits for exposure to noise to prevent hearing loss in employees. The level of noise one can safely be exposed to is dependent on the intensity of the noise as well as the duration of exposure. In an office setting OSHA noise standards are rarely approached or exceeded. However, problems could arise in areas with a high concentration of noisy machines, such as high-speed printers or Xerox machines.

When employees are subjected to sound levels exceeding OSHA standards, feasible administrative or engineering controls must be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels, personal protective equipment must be provided and used to reduce sound levels.

For many of the annoying sounds in the office environment, the following measures are useful for reducing the level of noise or its effects:

  1. Select the quietest equipment if possible. When there is a choice between two or more products, sound levels should be included as a consideration for purchase and use.

  2. Provide for proper maintenance of equipment, such as lubrication and tightening of loose parts that can cause noise.

  3. Locate loud equipment in areas where its effects are less detrimental. For example, place impact printers away from areas where people must use the phone.

  4. Use barrier walls or dividers to isolate noise sources. Use of buffers or acoustically-treated materials can absorb noise that might otherwise travel further. Rubber pads to insulate vibrating equipment can also help to reduce noise.

  5. Enclose equipment, such as printers, with acoustical covers or housings.

  6. Schedule noisy tasks at times when it will have less of an effect on the other tasks in the office.

Used with permission of Office of Health and Safety,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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