What sectors of industry are currently investing in noise controls, and which are not, was the subject of Robert Anderson’s presentation at the 36th Annual National Hearing Conservation Conference in Mesa, AZ, Feb. 24-26.

Large, established heavy manufacturers are more likely to buy quiet equipment or retrofit noise reduction technologies due to: medical costs of hearing loss, union pressure, OSHA compliance.

Smaller heavy manufacturers are less likely to invest in noise control technology, either in buying quiet equipment or in retrofits, due to the costs of controls.

In newer, green manufacturing operations, both large and small facilities are more likely to spend on engineering controls due to wanting employee-pleasing work environments and conditions first and foremost, followed by the need for compliance and reducing medical costs.

Generally, Anderson found that industry is driven to implement engineering controls due to wanting to increase worker safety; compliance with regs; union and worker pressures; and wanting to improve work conditions.

Barriers to noise control usage are: the costs of retrofits; and OSHA’s current policy permitting widespread use of hearing protection devices.

“OSHA must do something to reassert engineering controls as the primary means to control noise exposures,” said Anderson. Also, “there is a drastic need to improve noise control engineering expertise both in industry and with suppliers of controls,” he said, and the business case must be articulated for the “value add” of many low-cost control options.

At least one vendor of hearing protection devices voiced displeasure in a Q&A session with what he perceived as a bias against the use of PPE. He said speakers had not made allowances for various technological advances with HPDs in recent years that have increased worker usage.