On January 18, 2007, the LHSFNA provided written testimony supporting a proposed regulation to control noise on construction sites in New York City.

Noise is a serious problem for construction workers and many enter retirement with severe hearing impairment. OSHA regulations require the use of hearing protection, but because noise levels in construction are inconsistent, it is not always worn. As a result, the LHSFNA consistently encourages construction companies to use controls that limit noise exposures for workers. The best way to reduce exposures is to use quieter construction equipment.

New and quieter equipment, of course, requires investments that many contractors are reluctant to make. However, in recent years, more and more communities have complained about the noise levels associated with construction. Thus, the pressure of communities has added weight to the long-standing efforts of the Laborers, other unions and OSH professionals to cut construction noise.

The proposed NYC regulations, following a trend already in full swing in Europe, will require controls on noisy equipment. By requiring controls, the regulation will foster a market for quieter equipment and will encourage manufacturers to make it. Indeed, many already are making quieter equipment to satisfy the European market. “Hopefully,” said the LHSFNA in its testimony, “regulations like this will be adopted by other jurisdictions and the demand [for quieter equipment] will increase even further. This regulation is stronger than most city ordinances in the U.S., and we applaud the (City) for promulgating it.”

The Fund raised caution, however, about the use of tents and other enclosures as a means to control noise. “While such measures can help protect receivers from noise exposure, they can concentrate exposures for workers within the exposures…We recommend that a hearing conservation program be encouraged for all work within an enclosure/tent or whenever work tasks expose workers to more than 85 dBA…Otherwise, this regulation could result in even more hearing loss among the City’s construction workers than exists today. It would be an unintended tragic consequence of a good rule.”

Noting the high annual number of backover deaths in roadway work zones (see Backover Fatalities Invite OSHA, State Action), the Fund also praised the proposed rule’s effort to encourage “straight drive through truck routes” to reduce noise from loud back-up alarms. By limiting backing in work zones, this regulation will also curtail backover accidents.

More information about noise control on worksites is available on the noise pages of the LSHFNA website and a variety of noise-related publications can be found in the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue.

[Steve Clark]