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Noise exposure reconstruction and evaluation of exposure trends in two large automotive plants.

Brueck SE; Prince Panaccio M; Stancescu D; Woskie S; Estill C; Waters M
Ann Occup Hyg 2013 Nov; 57(9):1091-1104
This study used a task-based approach to reconstruct employee noise exposures at two large automotive manufacturing plants for the period 1970-1989, utilizing historic noise measurement data, work history records, documented changes in plant operations, focus group discussions, structured interviews with long-tenure employees, and task-based job profiles. Task-based job noise exposure profiles were developed in the 1990s when the plants conducted task-based noise monitoring. Under the assumption that tasks and time-at-task profile within jobs did not change over time, these profiles were applied to historic jobs. By linking historic noise exposure measurements to job tasks, this approach allowed task-based reconstructed noise exposure profiles to capture variability of daily noise exposures. Reconstructed noise exposures, along with task-based noise exposure measurements collected at each plant during the 1990s, were analyzed to examine time trends in workplace noise levels and worker noise exposure. Our analysis of noise exposure trends revealed that noise levels for many jobs declined by =3 dBA from 1970 to 1998 as operational and equipment changes occurred in the plants and some noise control measures were implemented, but for some jobs, noise levels increased in the mid- to late 1990s, most likely because of an increase in production at that time. Overall, the percentage of workers exposed to noise levels >90 dBA decreased from 95% in 1970 to 54% in 1998 at one of the plants and decreased from 36% in 1970 to approximately 5% in 1999 at the other plant. These reductions indicate a degree of success for the hearing conservation program. However, the actual number of employees with noise exposure >90 dBA increased because of a substantial increase in the number of production employees, particularly in jobs with high noise levels, which shows a hearing conservation program challenge that companies face during periods of increased production. Future analysis of hearing levels in these plant populations will help determine whether noise level reduction translates into decreased hearing loss at these plants.
Noise-exposure; Automotive-industry; Hearing-loss; Hearing-threshold; Exposure-levels; Risk-factors; Workers; Work-environment; Author Keywords: automobile industry; noise; retrospective exposure assessment; task-based exposure
Scott Brueck, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS: R-11, Cincinnati, OH 45226
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Annals of Occupational Hygiene
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division