Development and application of a noise‐hazard scheme for road maintainers

Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Jennifer L. Garza, Jackie DiFrancesco, Alicia G. Dugan, Erica D. Walker, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: January 18, 2020

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From the abstract:

Background: Transportation road maintenance and repair workers, or “maintainers,” are exposed to hazardous and variable noise levels and often rely on hearing protection devices (HPD) to reduce noise‐exposure levels. We aimed to improve upon HPD use as part of the HearWell program that used a Total Worker Health, participatory approach to hearing conservation.
Methods: Full‐shift, personal noise sampling was performed during the routine task of brush cutting. Work activities and equipment were recorded and combined with 1‐min noise measures to summarize personal noise‐exposure levels by equipment. Using noise‐monitoring results, HPD noise reduction ratings, and input from worker‐based design teams, a noise‐hazard scheme was developed and applied to the task and equipment used during brush cutting.
Results: Average (standard deviation) and maximum Leq 1‐minute, personal noise‐exposure levels recorded during brush cutting included chainsaws at 92.1 (7.6) and max of 111 dBA, leaf blowers at 91.2 (7.5) and max 107 dBA, and wood chipper at 90.3 (7.3) and max of 104 dBA. The worker‐designed noise‐hazard scheme breaks down noise exposures into one of three color bands and exposure ranges: red (over 105 dBA), orange (90‐105 dBA), or yellow (85‐90 dBA). The scheme simplifies the identification of noise levels, assessment of noise‐hazard, and choice of appropriate hearing protection for workers.
Conclusion: Combining noise‐exposure assessment with intervention development using participatory methods, we characterized noise exposure and developed an intervention to educate and assist in protecting workers as they perform noisy tasks.