The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Identifying Noise

Jay Stansell - Friday, March 04, 2011

Carrying on the theme from the last two weeks where we talked about radiation sources of hazards, this week we move on to address noise as a radiation source.

Noise may be one of the most common hazards in workplaces.

We don’t usually consider noise to be a “radiation source”. 

It can, however, be classified as such because it is emitted into the environment in the form of a sound “wave” and radiation is always emitted in the form of a “wave” pattern of energy (e.g., visible light wave). 

Of course, the sound-waves could also be classified as a pressure-wave, and as such, noise could equally be classed as a “kinetic” type hazard. 

It may make no big difference how we classify noise, so long as we understand that it can have the potential to cause harm!

Noise harms people because it destroys the delicate nerve cells in the inner ear that transmit sound messages to the brain.  The nerve cells are replaced by scar tissue that does not then respond to sound.  That is – we go deaf!

At lower levels of noise exposure the damage occurs very slowly, is painless but permanent and there is no cure.  The upper acceptable exposure level for noise in Australia is classified as being 80 decibels (dB) per hour for an 8-hour working day. 

Exposure to noise levels above 80 dB for periods greater than 8 hours will be doing permanent and irreversible harm.

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