The dangers of noise pollution in the working environment and beyond are ever-prevalent, reflects Casella’s Tim Turney.
Environmental health and safety has felt the positive effect of the push toward technology and the advancement of monitoring is a big part of this.
Occupational hygienists, noise consultants and engineers alike are using new technology in their everyday roles, monitoring dust and noise levels for individual workers and in the wider environment.
The I-93 Central Artery/I-90 Tunnel Project in Boston – popularly known as the ‘Big Dig’ – was one of the biggest urban infrastructure and transportation projects in US history.
Monitoring for noise, dust and vibration still requires an equal amount of human intuition in order to assess many vital aspects
The project alleviated an extensive traffic problem that had plagued the city for half a century, saving Boston’s road users an estimated $500 million in elevated accident rates, fuel consumption and late delivery charges by the time of its completion in 2007.
It also reunited Boston’s various neighbourhoods with the waterfront, built new bridges and public parks, and paved the way for the city’s growth well into the 21st century.
Nevertheless, it also presented huge challenges to those responsible for monitoring noise and vibration. Erich Thalheimer, a principal acoustical engineer with WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, managed the noise control programme during peak construction years.
During this time, Thalheimer oversaw contractor compliance, performed specialised noise/vibration studies, developed innovated noise control solutions, and ensured the project’s environmental impact statement (EIS) noise commitments were fulfilled.
Matter of trust
An important factor was knowing that he could trust the technology as reliable. He sought out a highly accurate yet simple-to-use device to accompany his wider research into construction and traffic-induced noise and vibration experienced by people living close to the Big Dig.
The engineer employed Casella’s CEL 593 noise and vibration monitoring device. And some 20 years after he initially purchased it back in 1996, he still uses the device.
The CEL 630 Series is the CEL 593’s modern equivalent and a preferred option for noise surveys in the workplace, as the operator is present – ensuring that the noises measured are of good quality.
From the survey, a representative measurement is made for each job function, with the exposure time for each, enabling an eight-hour exposure to be calculated as a result.
The best acoustic analyser in the world is the one between our ears
Erich Thalheimer, acoustical engineer, WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff
It illustrates that monitoring for noise, dust and vibration still requires an equal amount of human intuition in order to assess many vital aspects, including the likely causes, the people impacted and the steps that need to be taken to improve the situation.
As Thalheimer states: “The best acoustic analyser in the world is the one between our ears.”
When monitoring is taking place, the user must take into account those environmental factors prevalent on the day. Results taken during the summer will be affected by open windows and skylights, creating a breeze that could distribute dust particles within the area being tested.
If the same test were to be conducted in the winter with windows closed, the dust would remain on surfaces, making it more apparent. A simple change in season could cause an issue to go unnoticed.
It is clear that, despite the growth in technology, its undoubtable benefits and its seamless simplicity, a true understanding and appreciation of acoustics is best achieved with collaboration between technology and people using it.
The CEL 593 enhanced understanding of the dangers of noise exposure in the workplace. As the instrument evolves, the technology will continue to be an extension of our own capabilities, not a replacement.
- Tim Turney is technical product manager at Casella