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NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program Review NIOSH Publications on Noise and Hearing The National Academies - Advisors to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

What does the HLR Program Do?

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Research Goal 1

Research Goal 2

Research Goal 3

Research Goal 4

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Research Goal 3.3:
Reduce noise exposures to construction workers using a
web-based database for powered hand tools

More than 2.9 million construction workers are exposed to harmful levels of noise. Studies have shown that construction workers’ noise exposures from portable hand-held power tools range from 81 dB(A )to 113 dB(A).6,5,[20], [21] Although these studies focused on personal, task-based, and area noise level measurements, they showed that hand-held power tools were a major contributor to construction site noise levels. Prior to the HLR program’s involvement in this area, no independent and reliable guidance was available for employers and employees about the noise levels generated by different tools. In addition, noise control researchers need a public domain source for qualitative and quantitative acoustics data on these tools for use in noise studies aimed at reducing those emissions.

HLR program scientists focused their efforts on gathering sound power level data from powered hand tools used by workers in both the commercial and residential construction industries and dissiminating this information via a searchable website database.[22] HLR researchers collaborated with researchers at the University of Cincinnati to setup, equip, and validate the University’s hemi-anechoic test lab for gathering sound power level data on powered hand tools.[23],[24],[25] Each tool tested was purchased on the open market. Since there are thousands of powered hand tools on the market, the study initially used national market research reports and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings to select tools to measure for the database. These efforts provided a broad picture of the powered hand tool industry market shares. The market share data was combined with inquiries of power tool distributors and dealers to gather information on models with the highest stock turnover at their location or their bestsellers. This approach provided reasonable confidence that the database population of tools were representative of the ones most frequently purchased and used by construction workers.

The research team gathered operational characteristics and sound power level data on all the tools. They also collected the acoustics data for use by other researchers. These efforts support the reduction of NIHL among construction workers by providing “buy quiet” information to power tool buyers and end users and by promoting the advancement of powered hand tool noise control efforts by providing raw quantitative acoustics data. Further, HLR scientists are working with professional standards bodies to examine existing standards and pass on lessons learned through standards revisions.[26],[27] 

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[20] Utley WA, Miller LA [1985]. Occupational noise exposure on construction sites. Appl Acoust 18(4): 293-303.

[21] McClymont L, Simpson D (1989). Noise levels and exposure patterns of do-it-yourself

power tools. J Laryngol Otol 103(12):1140-1141.

[22] Hayden CS II, Davis R [2002]. Study Protocol:  Definition and Evaluation of Engineering Noise Controls in the Construction Industry,  U.S. DHHS, PHS, CDC, NIOSH.

[23] Hayden CS II [2005]. Database Development and Partnership Solutions Leading to Reduced Noise Emissions of Powered Hand Tools. U.S. Public Health Service Conference, Philadelphia, PA, June 2005, & Society of American Military Engineers Conference, Louisville, KY, May 2005.

[24] Hayden CS II, Zechmann E, Verma R [2004]. Production of a Noise Level Database of Powered Hand Tools. 148th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. San Diego, CA, November 2004.

[25] Hayden CS II [2004]. Noise Control of Power Tools Used in the Construction Industry – NIOSH/Universities Partnership Case Studies. U.S. Public Health Service Conference, Anchorage, AK, May 2004, & Institute for Noise Control Engineers Conference, Baltimore, MD, July 2004.

[26] Hayden CS II, Zechmann E [2005]. Use of Existing Standards to Measure Sound Power Levels of Powered Hand Tools - Necessary Revisions. Proceedings of NOISE-CON 2005 as presented in Minneapolis, MN, October 2005.

[27] Zechmann E, Hayden CS II [2005]. Sound Power Measurement Techniques for Powered Hand Tools. Proceedings of NOISE-CON 2005 as presented in Minneapolis, MN, October 2005.

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