The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has many strategies for how to reduce hearing loss and the second most effective is substitution.
In an effort to promote the substitution of the hazard, NIOSH is urging the individuals to participate in its prevention initiative Buy Quiet. This program provides information on equipment noise levels so customers can buy quieter machines. It also encourages manufacturers to produce quieter equipment.
Every year, 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to noises loud enough to damage hearing. In 2007, there were 23,000 cases of occupational hearing loss that led to hearing impairment. By reducing the amount of decibels (dBA) a worker is exposed to, the risk of hearing loss is greatly reduced.
NIOSH conservatively estimates that $100 per dBA of savings are possible when quieter equipment is purchased. In the long term, costs for providing worker’s compensation, a hearing conservation program, healthcare, and lost productivity can also be reduced by purchasing quieter machinery.
There are there several different levels of Buy Quiet that can be implemented. For beginners, one can simply commit to buying machinery that is quieter when replacing older tools. The mid-range commitment is to buy the most cost-beneficial product that makes less noise than the original equipment. The highest level of Buy Quiet commitment is to buy the quietest piece of equipment, regardless of price.
NIOSH is still compiling noise comparison data but currently has a power tools database for buyers to examine. A comprehensive database on machinery noise levels can be found on Europe’s Machinery Directorate.
While many landscapers are used to encountering noise ordinances that limit the times noisy equipment can be used, widespread adoption of quieter equipment may slow the trend toward such local laws.