Paint and panel noise exposure can be a hazard in the workplace. According to WorkSafe how loud it too loud?
Workers in paint and panel workshops are exposed to varying levels and frequencies of noise that is likely to cause them to be exposed to noise that exceeds the Australian exposure standard of 85 decibels (dB). This can lead to Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), one of the most common claims for Workers Compensation.
Hearing Loss due to paint and panel noise exposure at work is painless, permanent, progressive and PREVENTABLE.
Removing and repairing body panels using pneumatic tools can be noisy work: air saws and chisels can typically produce levels as high as 107 dB(A) and grinders and orbital sanders 97 dB(A).
Typical noise levels of plant and work practices used in spray painting range between 82 and 110dB(A).
- sander (air or electric) 82 – 100 dB(A)
- nine inch angle grinder 97 – 110 dB(A)
- air compressor 85 – 89 dB(A)
- inside a spray booth 75 – 91 dB(A), and
- processes involving compressed air 93–110 dB(A)
Noise levels from panel beating and other repair operations using hand tools are variable but generally high; noise from work with sheet metal is often around 93 dB(A).
Welding and flame cutting can also be noisy, and paint spraying has been measured at 93 dB(A).
Hearing protection should always be worn whenever paint and panel noise levels are over 85 dB.
For paint and panel noise exposures above 85 decibels, you should:
- Reduce exposure to as low a level as reasonably practicable through organisational and technical measures [for example selecting quiet tools, separate noisy work to reduce numbers exposed to noise]
- Provide hearing protection and ensure it is used (employees have a duty to wear the protection provided)
- Demarcate hearing protection zones – ensure no one enters unless wearing hearing protection
- Provide health surveillance (ie: audiometric hearing checks)
Workplace noise control measures include:
- removing the source of noise completely
- substituting a noisy process or machine, such as an air compressor or extraction fan,
with a quieter one
- isolating the source of noise from people by using sound proof enclosures or barriers
- using engineering controls, for example sound absorbing materials, mufflers
- using administrative controls, for example limit the amount of time people work in noisy areas, and
- using personal hearing protectors to protect workers from any remaining risk.
Further guidance about controlling noise or ototoxic effects in the workplace is available at
SafeWork Australia’s Code of Practice: Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work.