Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2007-0183-3047, assessment of noise exposures in a hospital kitchen, Department of Veterans Affairs, Cincinnati, Ohio.
On March 21, 2007, NIOSH received a management request from the Industrial Hygiene and Safety Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Cincinnati, Ohio, to assess employee noise levels in the Nutrition and Food Services Department. The request stated that employees were concerned about noise exposures in the kitchen's pots and pans room after the installation of the PowerSoakŪ, a continuous dishwashing system. On March 27-28, 2007, a NIOSH investigator evaluated employee exposures to noise in this department. Eleven employees (two cooks, eight food service workers, and a materials handler) who worked in the Nutrition and Food Services Department contributed 13 full-shift and two task-based personal noise dosimetry measures over 2 days. None of the measures exceeded the OSHA criteria. Noise levels for two food service workers assigned to the pots and pans room, a cook working in the food preparation area, and a food service worker assigned to the dishwashing room exceeded the NIOSH REL. The noise level from the PowerSoak dishwashing system alone was not excessive, but additional noise from the food preparation area (primarily from blenders and utensils), and from metal-to-metal contact between stainless steel pots and pans and metal racks, may explain exposures above the NIOSH REL for the pots and pans room employees. The cooks are exposed to many intermittent impact noise sources from general handling such as metal-to-metal contact between utensils and the use of industrial-size blenders. The food service workers assigned to the dishwashing room are exposed to intermittent impact noise from contact between utensils and china, and continuous noise from the pulper, a waste-reduction machine. Noise exposures to the cooks and the employees assigned to the pots and pans room should be lowered to maintain exposures below the NIOSH REL by reducing impact noise from metal-to-metal contact between utensils and metal racks. In addition, the pulper should be replaced with a garbage disposal system to reduce noise exposures, and to prevent unsanitary work conditions from possible pulper malfunction.