Noise: Effective protection needed
12 July 2017
Noise control technologies are playing an increasingly important role in health and safety practices within manufacturing workplaces, as Lee Nicholson, managing director at Wakefield Acoustics, explains
The manufacturing industry, which employs around 2.7 million people across the UK, is a diverse sector that comprises a large selection of industries, ranging from heavy industries such as steel manufacturing to more delicate operations such as food manufacturing. Whilst the specific manufacturing methods may vary from sector to sector, effective noise control remains the backbone to effective health and safety practices regardless of the environment.
Whether installed in a plastic manufacturing facility, glazing manufacturing factory, or as part of a larger mining operation, left untreated, large industrial plant machinery can emit high levels of noise which exceed the upper action limit of 85dB(A) daily exposure levels – as outlined in the Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Additionally, many manufacturing site managers are now demanding even lower noise levels within the working environment to limit noise exposure for employees.
The manufacturing industry, in particular, presents elevated levels of noise exposure that could potentially affect a large number of workers if not treated effectively. Most manufacturing sites, for example, contain equipment such as pumps, electric motors, fans, blowers and compressors, all of which can combine to generate noise that is potentially detrimental to the health of employees and disruptive to the local community.
When looking to address excessive noise levels from industrial equipment in manufacturing facilities, there is certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ approach and site managers must work proactively to identify key, major contributors to the excesses within the facility. To combat excessive noise in any manufacturing facility, a detailed noise survey should be conducted to identify prominent noise sources on site. By taking a range of sound readings, at various frequencies, and turning off machinery as appropriate, manufacturers can identify and report dominant noise sources and select suitable noise control solutions.
To ensure a safe facility, businesses should select noise control solutions that are not only fit-for-purpose, but safe to use within the specific site working conditions. Where it is possible to isolate noisy machinery, for instance, the erection of enclosures and screens should be considered.
Acoustic enclosures are designed to house the entire machine, including associated power packs. Dependent upon the application, noise reduction necessities, access and structural requirements, several types of enclosures are available. From modular panel to panel bolted constructions, fully framed fabrications and one piece drop over units, selecting the correct solution can be particular challenging.
When installing such solutions, consideration should be given to both the inherent noise of equipment and the desired maximum noise levels within specific areas of the facility. Equally fundamental for manufacturing site operators, however, are the maintenance and servicing access requirements for each item of machinery. To support routine maintenance schedules, acoustic enclosures can be designed with double leaf access doors, hinged panels or removable roof sections, to permit easy access for maintenance and servicing personnel.
In certain circumstances, it is not always feasible to treat noise at source, particularly in environments where there are multiple noise sources contributing to the overall exposure experienced by operators. In such cases, noise havens can be installed which are designed to offer respite for operators.
Noise havens are increasingly popular in automated manufacturing areas, where employees oversee mechanised equipment, and provide a quiet environment where staff can work and communicate with optimal efficiency. Bespoke structures often comprise access doors, viewing windows, lighting and ventilation systems.
There has been a growing recognition in recent years of the benefits of industrial noise control systems in the manufacturing sector. In fact, most businesses are now taking a proactive approach to addressing noise issues and implementing a comprehensive noise mitigation regime during the design and construction of their facilities.
Wakefield Acoustics manufactures advanced industrial and environmental noise control systems and has extensive expertise in supplying innovative noise control technologies to the manufacturing sector.