Although construction sites are notoriously noisy, the issue of noise pollution from construction is often overlooked. This insidious threat can have damaging effects not only on workers but also on the community and local wildlife.
The Dangers of Noise Pollution
Noise pollution encompasses any sound harmful to the health of humans and wildlife. While noise pollution can stem from many sources, including traffic and concerts, construction site noise is a considerable contributor.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers be exposed to no more than an average of 85 decibels (dBA) over an 8-hour period, with higher levels considered hazardous. However, the majority of construction equipment exceeds this limit, with most saws and drills ranging from the 90s to as high as 120 dBA. Because of this, construction is considered a high-risk occupation for hazardous noise exposure.
Prolonged exposure to hazardous noise levels can result in Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), an irreversible condition that currently affects millions of Americans. Other damaging health effects include heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, and increased stress and anxiety. These conditions can affect not only workers but also those in the community exposed to the construction site noise.
Construction noise pollution also has negative effects on biodiversity. Because many animals rely on sounds to communicate, find food, or detect predators, man-made noise pollution endangers them by masking these sounds. This affects a variety of animals in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
Strategies to Reduce Noise Pollution
In order to protect the community, wildlife, and workers from the damaging effects of noise pollution, employers can use a number of strategies to reduce, if not completely eliminate, noise pollution from a construction site.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that employers implement administrative controls when workplace noise exposure exceeds 85 dBA over an 8-hour period, and engineering controls when exposure exceeds 90 dBA. So, what are administrative and engineering controls, and how can you implement them?
Administrative controls change the way people work in order to minimize the noise damage to workers. One example of an administrative control is managing employees’ schedules so that fewer people are on-site while noisy machinery is being operated. Employers can also limit the amount of time workers spend around high noise sources and provide quiet areas to give workers relief from the noise levels during breaks. Along with administrative controls, OSHA mandates that employers provide personal hearing protection, such as earmuffs and earplugs, to employees in environments with noise levels exceeding 85 dBA.
Engineering controls target the noise-generating equipment itself and are more effective at reducing the effects of noise pollution on the community and the environment. One example of an engineering control is choosing machinery that produces less noise, such as electric-powered rather than diesel-powered equipment. Other engineering controls include proper maintenance and lubrication of machinery and using barriers to minimize noise exposure.
How to Reduce Noise Pollution
To learn about more ways to reduce the effects of noise pollution and protect employees, consult the infographic below.
Contributing Author: Lydia McAllister, Content Marketing Specialist, Siege Media
Lydia McAllister is a content creator that creates compelling and helpful content in the construction space for BigRentz, a construction equipment rentals marketplace with a network of over 4,000 rental partners. BigRentz represents the largest equipment rental network in the nation and shares useful guides such as how to protect yourself from noise pollution on-the-job and tips for improving on-site safety.