Office Noise Pollution: How to Manage Workplace Acoustics

Aug 17th 2020

Office Noise Pollution: How to Manage Workplace Acoustics

Things You Need To Know About Office Noise

Frequent and excessive noise levels can damage your hearing. It may happen so painlessly and gradually that you may not notice the insignificant changes in your hearing from one day to another. Excessive office noise can decrease employee efficiency and cause various health problems, including hearing loss.

If there’s too much noise at work, the parts of the ear processing high-frequency sounds are first in line to suffer. The damage severity depends on how long you are exposed to noise pollution in the office, and on the noise’s decibel levels.

OSHA Noise Level Standards and Noise Pollution

According to OSHA, the acceptable office noise dB level is anything below 85. In case your employees are exposed to 85dB or higher office noise levels during their shifts, the company is obligated to begin with a hearing conservation program. The employer needs to inform the impacted employees of the test results and provide them with the possibility to observe the entire testing process for themselves. Additionally, the company must provide its employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) like earplugs or antiphons free of charge.

Once noise pollution at work exceeds 90dB, OSHA imposes more strict regulations. In those cases, the company must redesign the entire work area to minimize office noise levels as much as possible. This may include using acoustic panels to protect workers from open office noise, purchasing quieter equipment, or reconfiguring the space so the acoustics provide a normal noise level in the office.

The Effects Excessive Workplace Noise Can Have on Health

Noise, or ‘unwanted sounds’ can significantly impact your health. Noise-induced hearing damage or complete/partial loss of hearing is among the most common health conditions worldwide that occur at the workplace. Luckily, it's preventable. It’s vital to put in place measures that’ll help with open office noise cancellation. When workers are exposed to high dB levels of noise at work, they may suffer from different negative health effects. These health effects can come either from a single exposure or by continuous exposure to raised noise levels.

Hearing impairment is the most common negative effect, but there are other, less common, health conditions that may occur. Some people are noise-sensitive, which means they’ll suffer more harm if exposed to noise in the office workplace compared to their colleagues.

The most common health effects include occupational stress, noise-induced loss of hearing, tinnitus, and others. There are also passive effects the noise can have on workers’ health like losses of productivity, masking the warning signals of approaching danger, etc. All of these effects can lead to issues.

How To Keep Your Focus In A Noisy Office Environment

Several methods can help you regain your focus in a noisy office environment. Open office noise control includes, if possible, minimizing the noise at its source or even masking the noise with white sounds or calming music.

If the office noise is not constant but sequential, you may want to organize your tasks to avoid working during the noisy sequences. That way, when the noise sequence starts, you can leave your office until it stops, and then return to your duties. But if the noise is constant, blocking it with earplugs or other noise-canceling PPE should do the trick.

Moving your desk to another location within the office with lower noise levels can also be very helpful. Additionally, various soundproofing materials can help fight the office noise like soundproof wall boards and sound-reducing window curtains. These products serve as sound barriers to protect workers from excessive noise at work, and they’re an excellent solution to help you regain your focus.

Ideas on How to Manage Noise Levels at Work

Working in a noisy environment makes it hard to stay concentrated on work. There are some things you can do to manage the noise levels at your workplace:

  • Plants are great for reducing office noises since they absorb the unwanted sounds so the noise won’t spread.
  • Office workstation cubicles do wonders for blocking noise.
  • Office dividers will absorb the echoing noise making your office a quieter environment.
  • Changing the office layout by moving machinery to one room and spreading the office desks in several rooms will reduce noise echoes.
  • Controlling the background noise with soothing sounds like water flow, waves, nature sounds, and others can do wonders.
  • Vinyl flooring or carpets are excellent sound-absorbents.
  • Noise-reducing headphones will help reduce unwanted sounds to an extent, but not completely.
  • Furniture made of sound-absorbing materials or cloth-like couches, sofas, etc. can soak up the noise circling the office space.
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