The combination of industrial machinery in a manufacturing environment, such as electric motors, pumps, compressors and generators, and employees working in close proximity means the manufacturing sector carries its own set of unique risks, none more so than the dangers of unwarranted noise levels that are often well in excess of the upper action limit of 85dB (A) daily exposure levels – as outlined in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

The risks of excessive noise are well documented, with exposure in the workplace often leading to Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), which is irreversible, but 100% preventable, as well as disruption to plant operations.

Reducing the number of workplace incidents related to noise, therefore, has become a central focus for leading manufacturers in recent years and it is a trend optimised by the statistics. According to the Health and Safety in the Manufacturing sector in Great Britain, 2017 report from Health & Safety Executive[1], over the last 30 years the rate of self-reported non-fatal injuries has shown a downward movement. In fact, since 1986/87 there has been a 58% reduction in such injuries[2].

Whilst several factors have undoubtedly played a role in the declining numbers of workplace injuries, from new safety regulations to an improving attitude from senior executives, technology has, no doubt, been fundamental to improving health and safety in the sector.

The introduction of next generation industrial noise control technologies has given businesses across a range of sectors, from food and drink manufacturing to heavy industries such as steel manufacturing, an opportunity to take action to improve workplace safety and, in turn, operational performance.

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.

Automotive component manufacturer reduces noise

An automotive component manufacturer engaged in a programme of improvements to health and safety culture in the organisation, which has helped to reduce excessive noise in their test facility and protect employees.

With noise levels emitted from the proposed test equipment at the facility anticipated to be in the order of 90-95dB(A), which exceeds the upper action level of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, the manufacturer knew that action needed to be taken to ensure employee safety.

Whilst exposure to noise levels of a similar amplitude are not uncommon in general manufacturing sites across the UK, the automotive component manufacturer understood the risks of leaving it untreated.

Aware of the dangers and the current regulations, which place an emphasis on elimination or controlling excessive noise, the company turned to the specialist services of Wakefield Acoustics to install noise control measures around the test bed in order to protect employees from the excessive noise generated.

Many factors had to be considered during the installation, none more so than access to the test bed. The manufacturer wanted to maintain the use of an overhead crane for loading of the heavy test components into the new test cell, so access was a key requirement. In order to overcome this challenge, the enclosure was installed with slots in the roof to allow access for the crane. These slots were closed with brush strips to reduce noise transfer. A series of large framed doors with vision panels were also installed in the enclosure to allow full access and viewing of the test components.

Following the successful installation of the test bed enclosure, a second enclosure was introduced to the area to house two hydraulic power packs. An existing temporary wooden barrier had failed to provide adequate noise reductions, leading the manufacturer to seek a more effective solution. The new acoustic enclosure included an integrated ventilation system, along with a series of hinged panels and doors to enable maintenance access.