Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2004-0046-2950, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
On July 11, 2003, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), received a request from the management of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to conduct a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) at the Mansfield Swine Education Center (MSEC). The requestor was interested in knowing the noise levels at the facility. NIOSH undertook this study due to the paucity of noise data in agricultural settings. A noise survey was conducted on March 22 and 23, 2004. Full-shift noise dosimeter measurements were collected on employees over 2 days. NIOSH investigators followed the employees to log their daily activities. In addition, ambient noise levels were stored on a real-time analyzer to capture the noise spectra for different activities. Seven full-shift dosimeter samples were collected during the evaluation. The daily noise levels were all well below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (90 decibels on an A-weighted scale [dBA], but exceeded the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) on three occasions. The potential for high noise exposures is evidenced in the noise dose measured for specific activities such as power washing, ear clipping, and snout snaring. Area samples taken during the various activities are consistent with dosimetry for specific activities. Because of the high noise levels (as determined by the NIOSH REL), that employees encounter during the course of employment, NIOSH investigators offer recommendations to reduce the risk of occupational hearing loss. These recommendations include enrolling employees in a hearing conservation program, caring for and maintaining hearing protection devices, and padding some metal pieces on feeding chutes with a softer material to reduce the noise produced by metal-to-metal contact.