Todd Jerome Jenkins, MS, CSP, SMS, CHST, STSC

Safety Aficionado & Ph.D. Student

Weekly Safety Topic – How Noisy is it

How Noisy is It?

Spend a moment listening to the sounds around you. Would you be able to carry on a conversation without raising your voice? How do you feel when heavy equipment operates around you? Do you even hear yourself think? Are you relieved and less stressed when all the construction equipment is turned off and the tools are unplugged? If some of these situations sound familiar, you likely work on a typical, noisy construction site. And you probably need hearing protection.

Sound meters (also known as noise dosimeters) measure noise. Noise levels are measured in decibels, also known as dBA. Some tools and equipment emit less noise on a construction site than others. Here is a list of some standard tools and equipment and their noise levels:

  1. Air Compressor: 90            
  2. Air Gun: 108        
  3. Air Hammer: 110
  4. Air Track Drill: 110
  5. Backhoe: 85
  6. Brick Saw: 84 
  7. Chop Saw: 92
  8. Circular Saw: 10
  9. Concrete Saw: 98
  10. Drill: 87
  11. Dump Truck: 78
  12. Jackhammer: 102
  13. Man Lift: 84
  14. Stud Welder: 101

Hearing protection is generally required if you raise your voice to be heard a few feet away. For more information, see 29 CFR 1926.52, Table D-2.

You may not be able to avoid noisy surroundings on a construction site. Still, you can protect your hearing in several ways. You can reduce noise on the job by fitting mufflers or silencers to combustion engines and moving especially noisy machines away from the main areas of construction activities. When working in enclosed spaces, avoid using loud tools and equipment. Close machinery covers and panels. When not in use, turn off idling engines.

Wear hearing protection even when your noise exposure is below OSHA’s permissible level. It is irreversible once you have damaged your hearing. Make sure you know when and where hearing protection is necessary. It’s easy to find comfortable hearing protection, but you must wear it properly. How noisy is a construction site? Without permanent protection, it’s noisy enough to damage your hearing. Construction sites can reduce noise and its effects on your health and hearing. What does that mean for you? First, noise levels depend heavily on your distance from the noise source, so those numbers should only be used as guides. If the noise level exceeds 85 decibels, you should wear hearing protection. 

Learn more about noise.

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