Sound Ergonomics in Frozen Food Manufacturing: Equipment for Worker Safety

sound ergonomics

When someone says “typical food manufacturing hazards,” you might think of conveyor-related injuries or the sharp blades of meat slicers. However, there’s another very real danger to employees in frozen food manufacturing – sound. 

Industrial sounds cause employees various health problems if the right sound ergonomics aren’t used. In this article, we’ll review sound ergonomics, the ergonomics definition by OSHA, OSHA ergonomics standards, and solutions – including Quantum automated food equipment. Understanding what sound ergonomics are, and the sources of food manufacturing noises, is key to protecting your team. 

Ergonomics Definition by OSHA

OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and it is the United States’ governing body for maintaining safe workplaces. OSHA also has a lot of other functions, including ensuring that workplaces meet and maintain safety standards. There are many hazards in the food manufacturing industry, such as equipment hazards, including cuts and amputations caused by blades. However, here, we will focus on sound ergonomics in frozen food manufacturing. But first, let’s look at the ergonomics definition by OSHA. 

The ergonomics definition by OSHA is “fitting a job to a person.” This means adjusting the job, working environment, and equipment so that the employee is as safe as possible. The food manufacturing industry has a great number of hazards, especially sound hazards. Although “sound” may not seem as dangerous as an amputation injury or an injury due to heavy equipment, sound hazards are real dangers to employee health. Here, the ergonomics definition by OSHA extends to sound ergonomics – making sure that industrial noises remain at a safe level or that there are workplace practices in place to protect the hearing of employees. Next, we’ll review OSHA ergonomics standards and sound. 

OSHA Ergonomics Standards and Sound

Loud and constant workplace noises over time can lead to serious health issues, which we’ll explain a little later. Let’s first investigate the causes of loud sounds in food manufacturing. Understanding these sources allows manufacturers to hone in on where they can improve their work environment for their employees. 

Causes of Loud Sounds in Food Manufacturing

Here are some of the likely sources of harmful sounds in food manufacturing plants:

  • Inefficient and squeaky machinery
  • Vehicles
  • Packaging equipment
  • Difficult machine maintenance
  • Generators and AC units

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point to assess what aspects of your food manufacturing plant cause harmful noise. The plant itself may also contribute to the noise, by generating echoes from other sources of noise. When a team is working on the floor, they’re constantly exposed to these sound hazards, so it’s critical to instate and follow OSHA standards for proper sound ergonomics. 

OSHA Ergonomics Standards

OSHA ergonomics standards state that workplaces must instate protocols and practices for hearing preservation when the working environment is at or exceeds “85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours or over an 8-hour time-weighted average.” To test if your manufacturing plant is at or exceeds 85 decibels, stand 3 feet away from someone and try to talk to them with a normal speaking voice. If they can’t hear you and you need to raise your voice, it’s likely that your plant meets or exceeds 85 decibels. However, you can purchase noise meters that can measure how loud the manufacturing plant is. Without proper protection, employees can experience significant health problems. 

Health Issues Caused by Loud Sounds

Hearing damage caused by loud industrial sounds is complex. With unprotected exposure over time, employees can suffer from permanent hearing loss. We hear through the hearing cells called hair cells in our inner ear. These hair cells are a type of nerve cell that helps convert sound waves to what we perceive to hear. Repeated loud noises damage these hair cells and can cause them to die, leading to irreversible hearing loss. Even further, hearing loss can also lead to memory loss, Alzheimer’s Disease, and dementia. Loud industrial noises cause more health issues in addition to hearing loss, which is why employers need to protect their teams. 

How Employers Are Responsible for Safety 

There are many ways that employers can institute sound ergonomics to prevent employee hearing loss. The requirements of OSHA specify that employers must instate protections such as “engineering controls, administrative controls, or Hearing Protection Devices,” which reduce the sound that employees are exposed to. These protocols need to bring noise down to safe levels, according to OSHA guidelines. Of course, we strongly recommend deferring to OSHA’s website to make the necessary decisions to make your food manufacturing plant safer. Let’s take a look at some specific solutions for sound ergonomics in a business environment.

Solutions for Sound Ergonomics in a Business Environment

Now that we’ve discussed what sound hazards are and what OSHA requirements outline, we’ll explore solutions for sound ergonomics in a business environment. 

Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The right PPE can help protect employees’ hearing. Headphones rated for industrial workspaces and for hearing protection up to certain decibels can protect your team. Measuring the noise level of your food manufacturing plant can help you choose the right headphones for your team.

Install Sound Dampening Materials

To improve sound ergonomics in a business environment in a food manufacturing plant, you can install sound-dampening materials. Companies can install materials like industrial acoustic foam around the plant and hang up sound curtains to help minimize sound traveling between workspaces. 

Employ Easily Maintained Equipment

Food manufacturing equipment generates a lot of noise, including during maintenance. When equipment needs power tools to be disassembled, the tools can also contribute to harmful noise levels. Employing easily maintained equipment, like Quantum equipment, drastically reduces the need for loud power tools. Most of our automated food equipment is washdown compatible, meaning your team doesn’t have to worry about loud disassembly. 

Increase Safety with Quantum

At Quantum Technical Services, we’re dedicated to making automated food equipment that increases employee safety. Our automated machines limit employee interaction with the equipment and food products, decreasing the chance of physical injury. We’re also committed to providing other news and safety information so food manufacturers can create the safest working environment possible for their teams. Contact us today to implement the latest technology in automated food equipment that improves worker safety while ensuring quality and consistency.