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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927ZJFA - Noise Control for Construction and Manufacturing Industries

Start Date: 4/1/2008
End Date: 9/30/2012

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Charles Hayden Ii
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DART
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed


Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

This project aims to contribute to a reduction in construction, shipyard, and primary metal workers' noise exposure and noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) by providing quieter equipment and tools for use in their workplace and on their jobsites. This project translates research on sound levels and engineering noise control into practical information through the NIOSH Noise Control Compendium, the Compendium of Materials for Noise Control, the NIOSH powered hand tool database, the revision of purchasing standards and specifications, and the promotion of industry “buy quiet” and “quiet-by-design” programs. If end users and machinery purchasers request quieter equipment, then manufacturers will provide quieter equipment and this will result in a reduction in workers noise exposure.


The project evaluates noise emission levels in the field environment of construction sites, shipyards, and primary metal facilities. Where possible, laboratory measurement verification of exact or similar equipment will be accomplished. This evaluation identifies the equipment and machinery producing the greatest noise hazards and examines the feasibility of applying effective noise control technologies. Concurrently, the project identifies research gaps and documents the application of existing controls. Findings from this portion of the project will be placed on NIOSH's existing website database and included, and where appropriate, in the revised NIOSH Noise Control Compendium and the Compendium of Materials for Noise Control.

Individual tool and machinery manufacturing companies may not be able to afford the cost of equipment, facilities, and expertise to accomplish an advanced level of noise control research on their products. However, NIOSH can serve as a catalyst and facilitator to make these resources available to those manufacturers through partnerships with noise control expertise at a cost much lower than the manufacturer would incur if they endeavored to do the work themselves. Building upon established partnerships, agreements can be established to solve specific noise control problems and assist in noise surveys of equipment and machinery found to produce the greatest risk of hearing loss (e.g., pile drivers, bulldozers, metal rollers, sand blast units, power tools). The focus will be on developing and applying noise control technologies. For each identified noise source, the goal will be to reduce noise emissions by at least 3 dB, with the equipment's manufacturer readily deploying the controls on their product.

Finally, the project promotes the development and use of engineering noise control solutions in the construction, shipbuilding, and primary metal industries. This is accomplished in collaboration with project partners having the authority to promulgate change in an organization's purchasing procedures and specifications. There are already small efforts underway within the DOD and NASA to develop and implement “buy quiet” and “quiet-by-design” programs. Other collaborative research partners such as the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) are focused on motivating cultural change within an industry. The LHSFNA provides information resources and methods for reducing noise emissions and promotes the implementation of noise controls and “buy quiet” programs. “Buy quiet” programs and the application of engineering noise controls will also be promoted through revising existing standards to recommend appropriate noise level testing and labeling. Finally, marketing experts can develop programs that motivate end user and purchaser requests for quieter machinery and equipment and the application and use of available noise control technologies by equipment manufacturers.


2009: Complete six noise surveys of collaborative worksites, complete web-formatting of the Noise Control Compendium, serve as member on two or more standards setting bodies, attend three or more meetings with “buy quiet” or “quiet-by-design” program groups, collaborate with two or more university engineering departments to investigate noise source emissions and controls from machinery and equipment, and initiate a university student project to develop a market plan for noise control solutions. Initiate revision of the Compendium of Noise Control Materials.

2010: Deploy one or more noise control solutions resulting from this project, ongoing collaborations with two or more “buy quiet” programs, ongoing collaborations with two or more university engineering departments investigating noise emissions and controls, complete marketing plan for noise control solutions and NIOSH information resources, complete and publish the Noise Control Compendium, and submit to the standards committee and secretariat one or more formal drafts for revised standards for noise testing and labeling. Three focus groups convened and reported. Complete the revision of the Compendium of Noise Control Materials.

2011: Deploy three or more noise control solutions from this project, continued activities with two or more “buy quiet” program groups, continued investigation of noise source emissions and noise control solutions on two or more pieces of machinery and equipment, submit to the standards committee and secretariat one or more formal drafts for ratification (vote) to revise the standards for noise testing and labeling. Three focus groups convened and reported. Prepare the Compendium of Noise Control Materials for web publication.

2012: Deploy six or more noise control solutions from this project, three post control field evaluations and reports are completed, completion of both the Compendium of Noise Control Materials and the Noise Control Compendium on the NIOSH website – increase by 50% the number of hits from previous year, ratification of one or more revisions of standards for noise testing and labeling. Three focus groups convened and reported.

Mission Relevance

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common occupational illnesses in the United States. Occupational hearing loss is a permanent illness, with no recovery currently possible. Hearing loss severely impairs the quality of life, and in its most severe degree, presents a handicap that prevents the worker from being able to communicate effectively at work and at home. The effects of hearing impairment also have serious consequences in the individual�s ability to communicate in social and family settings, recognize auditory warnings, and may lead to added job stress and decreased job performance. Persons with NIHL are also more prone to workplace accidents as a consequence of the inability to hear audible warnings and impaired speech perception.

A number of studies have shown construction workers� general noise exposures from portable power tools range from 81 dBA to 113 dBA. Although, these previous studies focused on personal, task-based, and area noise level measurements, they did show that power tools were a major contributor to construction site noise. Power-tool-use-intensive construction occupations�such as plumbers, ironworkers, carpenters, and electricians�, show higher rates of abnormal hearing than with occupations less dependent on power tools, such as painters.

Up to 50% of the 7.3 million construction workers exhibit a hearing disability by age 50. A 1995 NIOSH health hazard evaluation (HHE) revealed that carpenters aged 25�35 years have the hearing equivalent of a 55-year-old worker who has not been exposed to excessive noise. By age 55, most carpenters need a hearing aid. Studies conducted at the University of Washington found that 40% of the noise exposure measurements made on carpenters and laborers were over the state of Washington�s Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)- 85 dBA for 8 hours. Twenty four percent of the measurements made on those who work in the so-called �quiet� trades, such as electricians, was also over this PEL. Research also found that workers in quiet trades are less likely to wear hearing protection, even when exposed to high levels of noise. For example, an analysis of hearing protector use patterns among carpenters found that only 18% used earplugs or earmuffs while working around loud noise. In November 2005, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published the 2004 data on nonfatal occupational illnesses. While hearing loss was the single largest category of recordable illness, the construction industry showed only a very modest 0.4 hearing loss cases per 10,000 construction workers. However, there is no regulatory requirement in the construction industry to have a hearing conservation program (HCP) in place and therefore, the construction industry is the least likely across all industries to provide audiograms and monitoring of their employee�s hearing. Highlighting the need to employ engineering noise controls and to provide workers the quietest tools and equipment available is that the construction industry is the least likely across all industries to have a HCP in place. Providing reduced noise emitting powered hand tools to the marketplace fulfills this need.

This project provides publicly available noise level information through its powered hand tools database. The database can be used as part of a tool users �buy quiet� program, to establish baseline noise emission levels in the construction industry, and to allow manufacturers to compare their noise emission levels against that of their competitors. Together, this increases the knowledge level base and promotes the manufacture and use of quieter powered hand tools.