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NIOSH Trumpets Ways to 'Buy Quiet'

Thursday, November 6, 2014

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Construction work is not just dangerous; it's deafening.

That's the warning from U.S. health and safety officials, who are sounding an alarm and offering resources to save what's left of workers' hearing.

Nearly half of all construction workers suffer hearing loss, the most common work-related injury in the United States, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Saw noise PowerSaw

Listen to the difference of 10 dB between two saws completing the same task. This difference equates to a greater-than-90-percent reduction in noise energy, according to NIOSH.

Battered daily by a cacophony of power tools, compressors and heavy equipment, the hearing of a 25-year-old construction worker often degrades quickly to that of a 50-year-old person in another line of work, NIOSH reports.

What can help? Buying quiet.

Companies that incorporate “Buy Quiet programs can help curb hearing loss among workers, according to NIOSH. Choosing equipment that can do the same job at even slightly lower volume can help avert hearing damage, says the agency, which has rolled out web resources to help companies do just that.

(Painters are not immune to hearing damage. Shop painting equipment runs at about 05dB, according to NIOSH. That's close to the volume of a chain saw or jackhammer, which can quickly damage unprotected hearing.)


A video by NIOSH explains the risks of hearing loss in the construction industry and the availability of "Buy Quiet" programs to reverse the trend.

‘Buying Quiet’ Program

The new NIOSH site demonstrates the benefits of a Buy Quiet program; explains how to establish such a program in the workplace; and offers a video, posters and other resources.

Users can hear how loud various types of equipment are and can compare the volumes of similar equipment.


Spray painting carries 105dB—nearly the volume of a chain saw and jackhammer and well above the level that can damage hearing, according to NIOSH.

The NIOSH site also offers resources for selecting tools and machinery designed to reduce noise.

The power tools database contains noise level data for a variety of common power tools, as well as links to the NIOSH Hearing Protector Compendium to assist employers and workers in choosing appropriate hearing protection.

Other Benefits

Choosing to buy quieter tools and equipment offers other benefits as well, NIOSH says.

Reducing noise benefits surrounding communities; helps companies comply with noise regulations and requirements; and reduces the potential long-term costs of audiometric testing, personal protective equipment and workers' compensation.

Raising Awareness

NIOSH has partnered with its National Construction Center, CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training, to raise awareness of the problem.

CPWR’s Construction Solutions website explains the hazard and provides information on a variety of solutions.

CPWR also offers a free, pocket-sized, water-resistant NOISE Hazard Alert  handout that employers may use for a toolbox talk or safety class. Copies are available free, while supplies last, by contacting CPWR.


Tagged categories: Construction; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Hearing protection; NIOSH; North America; Online tools; Regulations; Spray equipment; Worker training; Workers

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