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Quieting Your Construction Site

 

Alternate description

Thousands of construction workers in this country are hearing impaired because of their work, and thousands more are destroying their hearing because of their work in construction. In response to this, the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America has started the Construction Noise Control Partnership. This partnership is committed to ending the trend of rampant hearing loss for construction workers. It is comprised of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), other trade unions, contractors, public health organizations, government agencies, equipment manufacturers, academics and others.

Construction Noise Control Partnership

  • Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America
  • New England Laborers' Health and Safety Fund
  • New Jersey Laborers' Health and Safety Fund
  • New York State Laborers' Health and Safety Fund
  • Midwest Laborers' Health and Safety Fund
  • Laborers' Canadian Tri-Fund
  • Operating Engineers International Union
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Training Institute
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
  • Occupatioinal Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • St. Paul Insurance Company
  • Construction Industry Manufacturers Association (CIMA)
  • Equipment Manufacturers Institute
  • International Safety Equipment Association
  • National Asphalt Paving Association
  • American Road and Transportation Builders Association
  • NEA - The Association of Union Contractors

Everyone knows construction sites are noisy. Most construction workers have suffered a significant hearing loss after working 15-20 years at the trade. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that a 35 year old construction worker has the hearing of a 55 year old who has not been exposed to excessive noise on the job.

Noise hurts job safety. Noise can affect safety and communications on the jobsite. Background noise from machinery can make it hard to hear backup alarms and to relay instructions. If a worker is hearing impaired, the situation is made even worse. Communication is vital to job site safety, and effective communication requires that people are able to hear one another. Not hearing a “LOOK OUT BELOW!” warning from someone above can mean the difference between life and death for a construction worker.

Noise hurts workers and families. Noise hurts people, their families and their quality of life. After years of noise-induced hearing loss, everyday tasks can become much more difficult. Talking on the phone, watching television and conversing with family members become sources of stress for those with hearing impairments. Hearing loss can have a major impact on the quality of your life and often leads to social withdrawal.

Noise hurts neighborhoods. Noise can also affect your neighbors. More and more
jurisdictions now have noise ordinances restricting noisy operations to daylight hours. As more highway construction is taking place at night to minimize delays for motorists, noise from construction may have to be reduced to prevent projects from being delayed.

Construction sites can be quieter. Although many in the industry believe that construction sites are inherently noisy, there are many ways in which they can be made quieter.

  • Sometimes a quieter process can be used. For example: Pile driving is very loud.
  • Boring is a much quieter way to do the same work.
  • New equipment is generally much quieter than old equipment. Some manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make their equipment quieter. Ask the manufacturers about the noise levels of their equipment, and consider these levels when making your purchase. For example, noise-reducing saw blades can cut noise levels in half when cutting masonry blocks.
  • Old equipment can be made quieter by simple retrofits, such as adding new mufflers or sound absorbing materials. Check with the manufacturer on ways to do this, or check the MSHA website for information on retrofitting surface mining equipment- much of which is also used in construction.
  • Noisy equipment should be sited as far away as possible from workers and residents. Noise levels drop quickly with distance from the source.
  • Temporary barriers/enclosures (e.g., plywood with sound absorbing materials)
    can be built around noisy equipment. These barriers can significantly reduce noise levels and are relatively inexpensive.

The Construction Noise Control Partnership is developing a best practices guide explaining how to reduce noise on the jobsite and how to protect workers' hearing. The partnership is also developing standardized methods for measuring noise levels on jobsites in order to create a database of noise measurements. It will also be organizing a session on noise control at the National Conference on Ergonomics, Safety, and Health in Construction- to be held in May 2002 in Chicago.

As awareness of the impact noise has on our industry and lives grows, we hope more will join us in the campaign for quieter construction sites. Our efforts will hopefully prevent the next generation of construction workers from hearing loss. For more information on the Construction Noise Control Partnership, or on the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America, contact Scott Schneider at 202-628-5465. In addition, there is a link to the partnership's web page on the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund's website at www.lhsfna.org.

The Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America is a joint labor-management organization affiliated with LIUNA, dedicated to improving safety and health on and off the job for LIUNA members and its signatory contractors.

Other useful sites:
Burgess Building Industry Noise Report from NSW Australia
European Equipment Noise Levels Website
MSHA Surface Equipment Noise Control Page
NIOSH Noise Page
Noise Pollution Clearinghouse
Noise Conference Website
OSHA Noise Page
University of Washington Construction Noise Web Page
WISE EARS campaign
Worksafe Western Australia Noise Page

 

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