Metal fabrication workshops expose their workers to dangerous levels of noise. Caused by equipment such as welders, angle grinders, metal presses and cutting saws as well as hammering and bashing, workshop noise levels are typically in the 80-125dB(A) range.

Studies show that any noise level above 85dB(A) can cause hearing loss, and an unprotected worker can only be safely exposed to this level for eight hours. Even an increase of only 3dB to 88dB(A) reduces the safe exposure time by half to only four hours, while a further increase to 91dB(A) causes the worker to be at risk of serious hearing loss after only two hours.

Noise induced hearing loss in the metal fabrication industry is a very real and common health risk. However, the problem is mostly ignored until it is too late and irreversible industrial deafness has occurred.

In addition to hearing loss, there are several other hazards caused by high noise levels at the workplace. For instance, excessive noise could result in a worker not hearing a warning bell or an evacuation alarm; workers not hearing a forklift or a truck behind them; and a call for help or a shouted warning being ignored because it was not heard. All these instances can result in hazardous situations or accidents, risking both life and equipment.

With so much at risk, companies have a responsibility to ensure workplace noise is controlled through pro-active measures that reduce or remove this risk completely.

Companies are required to comply with government regulations; however, employers also have a duty of care towards their employees and must show consideration for the health and safety of their staff, the surrounding community and the environment.

Noise control in action

Flexshield was approached by engineering company Abcor Pty Ltd to address a serious noise problem in their workshop. The high noise levels posed serious risk to the physical and emotional health of their staff as well as clients visiting the workshop.

Abcor operates a large metalworking shop, which incorporates a series of boiler maker, welding and grinding bays.

Flexshield supplied and installed tailor-made acoustic bays in a series of cubicles to separate the welding and grinding processes from the rest of the workshop. Featuring SonicSystem panels and fitted with rapid roll doors with acoustic vision panels to meet Abcor's specific requirements, Flexshield’s acoustic bays have helped reduce the noise levels in the workshop significantly. With the new acoustic bays, Abcor not only ensures protection for visiting clients but also provides their workers with a safer and more pleasant work environment.

With increasing awareness of the impact of noise on workers, customers and the surrounding community and environment, Australian industry must take suitable measures to meet business standards, adhere to WHS criteria, and comply with government legislation.