Eliminate or Reduce Noise

Key Concepts
  • The Buy Quiet initiative encourages buying quiet machinery and tools
  • Using quieter machinery and tools can be more efficient and cost effective than personal protective equipment (PPE) alone
  • Buying quiet equipment follows the Elimination and Substitution levels on the Hierarchy of Controls

Retrofitting noisy equipment and tools costs much more than designing them to operate quietly. Buy Quiet is a prevention initiative that encourages companies to purchase or rent quieter machinery and tools to reduce worker noise exposure.

Reducing or eliminating noisy processes with quieter equipment is also more effective than depending on personal protective equipment (PPE).

When ordering made-to-order equipment, make clear provisions in the contract that the equipment noise levels will not exceed maximum desirable noise levels. Use noise levels as a deciding factor when purchasing new equipment and tools. Remember, the total noise level in the area should be below 85 dBA with all equipment running.

Be sure to keep up preventive maintenance of your new equipment. Poorly serviced equipment often becomes noisier over time.

Comparing Noise Levels of Tools


Controlling exposures to hazards in the workplace is vital to protecting workers.

The hierarchy of controls is a way of determining which actions will best control exposures, learn more.

Comparing the noise levels of equipment and tool options doesn’t take long and can save money over time. There are several ways to obtain noise data when purchasing new equipment:

  • Check equipment specifications for information on noise levels
  • Ask the manufacturer for noise data if it is not already provided.
  • Measure noise levels prior to purchase when possible.

Make sure you take noise measurements the same way for each piece of equipment. For each measurement, keep the sound level meter (SLM) microphone the same distance from the tool and record for the same amount of time.

Buy Quiet Example

A landscaping company that had been using gas-powered lawn care tools decided to evaluate battery-powered tools for landscaping tasks. The company tested the new battery-powered tools with Crew A, while Crew B continued to use the current gas-powered tools. Time-weighted average (TWA) exposure levels were collected from each crew.

Two Landscaping Crews at the Same Company

  • Crew A: battery-powered equipment
  • Crew B: gas-powered equipment

Approximate noise levels

  • Crew A: 78-82 dBA TWA
  • Crew B: 92-99 dBA TWA

What you can learn:

  • The company found that battery-powered equipment can be quieter than gas-powered tools.
  • NIOSH recommends employers enroll workers exposed to 85 dBA TWA in a hearing loss prevention program.
    • Because of their lower exposure levels, Crew A (battery-powered tools) may not need a hearing loss prevention program.
    • A hearing loss prevention program would be necessary for Crew B (gas-powered tools) because of their high exposure levels.

All other things being equal, battery-powered equipment appears to be a good solution for this company.