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How to make factories quieter

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 13: Noise > How to make factories quieter

Even if each piece of equipment in a factory is not too loud, when all the equipment and people work at the same time, the noise can be very loud. There are several ways to make a factory less noisy.

Use quieter machines. Ask the boss to replace older machines with newer ones built to be quieter than older models. Sometimes older machines can be rebuilt to make them less noisy.

Put noisy machines in a box. Putting a wall or a closed box around a machine can keep some of the noise inside. Sometimes the box is only put around the noisiest part of a machine. The wall or box should be made of material that absorbs sound, such as cork, rubber, felt, or foam.

Put noisy machines in a soundproof room. While not a great solution, loud machines can be put in a separate soundproof room, so only a few workers are exposed to the noise. These workers should always wear ear protection and take regular breaks outside the room. You can keep the noise from building up inside the room by covering the walls with materials that absorb sound.

workers in a riveting room at a garment factory; arrows point to safety features.
sound absorbing walls
workers take breaks in quiet area
well maintained machine is less noisy
Workers inside a soundproof room need protection from noise.

Absorb sound:

  • on walls, ceilings and floors: To make the whole factory quieter, cover the ceiling, floor, walls, and work-area dividers with panels or curtains of sound-absorbing material at least 5 centimeters (2 inches) thick.
  • on metal work surfaces and tools: Rubber-lined carts, bins, tumblers, and rubber-coated work surfaces and tools reduce the sound of metal parts and tools hitting metal surfaces.
  • on air-powered tools: A muffler on the release valve of an air-powered (pneumatic) tool can reduce noise of air coming out of the tool. Keep equipment in good repair. A machine may be noisy because it needs oil, adjustment, or a part is wearing out. Regular maintenance and repair can keep machines from getting noisier.

2 workers talking while 1 of them works with tools on a fan.
The boss should hire more maintenance workers. Nothing gets taken care of here until it breaks!
I know. This fan should be cleaned and balanced every few months to keep it quiet.
Good maintenance keeps machines quiet.

Turn down the music . Some factory bosses play very loud music to keep workers from talking and to keep them working fast. This often makes noise in a workplace even louder and more dangerous for workers’ hearing.

2 workers in a factory speaking.
I have a headache every day from the noise in here!
When the music stops, it is such a relief!

Share the burden. If you cannot make the machines less noisy, workers can rotate jobs so that no one stays in the noisy area all the time. This is not a good, long-term solution to noise problems.

Protect your ears

Workers in noisy areas should wear earmuffs or earplugs. These can help protect workers’ hearing while you organize to make the machines and the work area quieter.

Earmuffs give good protection if they gently but firmly touch your head and completely cover your ears. Earmuffs should be cleaned often and replaced when they no longer fit snugly and keep out noise.

Earmuffs Foam earplugs
Wgthas Ch13 Page 228-2.png

Disposable foam earplugs can protect your hearing if they are the right size and properly inserted in your ears. They should be small enough to fit comfortably and expand to fill the hole of the ear (see Protect your hearing).

Hearing protection can prevent you from hearing alarms or approaching vehicles. It is always better to get rid of the noise rather than to block it out.