Readers make noise about noise

In your December 1997 Human Side of Engineering article, "Is Hearing Loss Due to Job Noise Compensable?," I believe that the company involved is making a serious mistake if they simply "reassign him and hope that's the end of it.


In your December 1997 Human Side of Engineering article, "Is Hearing Loss Due to Job Noise Compensable?," I believe that the company involved is making a serious mistake if they simply "reassign him and hope that's the end of it." Hearing loss is a very serious issue at most companies, and any employer that ignores a clear warning like this one does so at its peril. The fact that none of the other people that work blasting regularly have complained does not mean that they are not suffering hearing loss.

Once the company is forced to confront the problem, either by a lawsuit or OSHA citation, they will have to institute a hearing conservation program. This program involves baseline testing of the hearing of affected employees and periodic retesting, sound level measurements to determine the decibel exposure of the employees, and a program that ensures that employees are issued appropriate hearing protection and that its use is enforced.

If the company fails to maintain the program, then the company may be required to institute "engineered solutions" that eliminate the noise at the source. Good luck trying to come up with a way to hold the noise of a blasting operation below 80 decibels!

To say that, "It doesn't follow automatically that because Joe's hearing is adversely affected others would be too, or to the same extent as Joe's," ignores the fact that their hearing could be affected and the company is now aware that a potential problem exists. The responsible thing to do, and the way to stay out of trouble, is to determine whether the noise of the blasting is so intense that some employees may be going deaf and then take steps to protect their hearing.

-- Don Scribner


Thorne's decision, "Let's reassign him and hope that's the end of it," was completely inappropriate. In my opinion, the responsible steps would have been:

1. Perform decimeter/noise level samplings of the Blasting Room operation

2. Use OSHA standards to determine the acceptable exposure levels, compared to the readings

3. Provide appropriate levels of protection from exposure and REQUIRE that they be utilized

4. Provide hearing tests for the employees subjected to the noise from the operation, to establish a baseline

5. Schedule and perform annual hearing tests to determine if hearing loss levels, compared with the baseline and subsequent testing, are progressing at a greater than normal rate, (and if the loss) could be attributed to industrial exposures.

Businesses today commonly find themselves responsible for conditions of which they were unaware. In this case, the company has been given the "gift" of an opportunity to mitigate a potentially litigious condition. The problem should be addressed at the source. Perhaps no real problem exists, but there is no evidence to support that contention. But if the potential exists for one employee, it exists for many. Anybody remember asbestos?

-- Charles V. Sanders, Principal Engineer, Boeing, Monrovia, CA

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.