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Measurement of Noise in the Workplace: Area Monitoring

The Purpose of the Assessment:

• To conduct an area monitoring (noise monitoring) at Utusan Melayu
factory, Bangi, Selangor.

i. To define the noise problem and provide the source for a noise
measurement and control plan.
ii. To identify the specific noise sources within the area.
iii. To draw a layout of the area with machinery location.
iv. To sketch noise contours of below 80dB(A), 80dB(A) to 84dB(A),
85dB(A) to 89dB(A) and 90dB(A) and above on the layout plan.
v. To determine whether any of the employees are exposed to noise
greater than action level of 85 dB(A) at a particular workplace.

Physically, there is no difference between sound and noise. Sound is a
sensory perception and noise corresponds to undesired sound. By extension,
noise is any unwarranted disturbance within a useful frequency band (NIOSH,
1991). Noise is present in every human activity, and when assessing its
impact on human well-being it is usually classified either as occupational
noise (i.e. noise in the workplace), or as environmental noise, which includes
noise in all other settings, whether at the community, residential, or
domestic level (e.g. traffic, playgrounds, sports, music) (de Hollander et al.,

Occupational noise exposure occurs when the ears of an exposed

employee is subjected to sound from background noise and vibrating objects
such as high speed rotating machines, air flow and friction or mechanical
impacts involved in machine operation. From the source, noise spread out
as a series of air pressure fluctuations known as sound waves. When a
sound waves strikes our ear, then hearing mechanism takes place (Frederick,

Area monitoring is an assessment of identifying the noise created by

the machineries operation within the particular area which may greater than
action level of 85 dB(A) or exceeding the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of
90 dB(A). The assessment of noise survey has been conducted at Utusan
Melayu factory. A walk through assessment was done for the beginning in
order to define the noise problem and provide some basis for noise
measurement and control plan. Besides that, we want to be familiarized with
the plant and machine’s location. This assessment can be considered as an
informal audit of noise source, possible noise controls and also the
management action taken in order to reduce noise exposure.

The purpose of this area monitoring assessment is to determine

whether any of employees working surround or merely near with the printing
machine is exposed to noise greater than the action level of 85 dB(A). The
Factory & Machinery (Noise Exposure) Regulation 1989 clearly stated that all
employers are to reduce and control the workers exposure to a noise level
below the permissible exposure limit of 90 dB (A) for 8 working hours. The
higher the sound level, the shorter the duration of exposure is permitted.
In an area monitoring, measurements of environmental noise levels
are recorded using a sound level meter to identify work areas where
employees' exposures may be above hazardous levels, and where more
thorough exposure monitoring may be needed. Area monitoring is conducted
using a calibrated sound level meter set to the A scale, slow response.
Within the area of interest, several different locations will be measured.
Typical measurement locations would include the hearing zone at the
employee's normal work location, next to the noise source(s), at the
entrance(s) to the work area or at other locations within the area where the
employee might work. A rough sketch of the area will be included with the
results showing the locations where the noise readings were obtained. The
collected data was interpreted into noise contour mapping.

The purpose of work field assessment by providing the noise contour

mapping is to identify the source of noise and the exposure levels at
different locations within the workplace. However, since our group only done
an assessment at one source of noise (the machine), thus our purpose for
making a noise or sound contour mapping is to identify the exposure levels
from a source of noise at that particular workplace area. The instrument
which has been used to measure the noise exposure level is Sound Level
Meter (SLM).

A sound level meter (SLM) is a device that we used to measures the

intensity of sound at a given moment. Since sound level meters provide a
measure of sound intensity at only one point in time, it is generally
necessary to take a number of measurements at different times during the
day to estimate noise exposure over a workday. If noise levels fluctuate, the
amount of time noise remains at each of the various measured levels must
be determined.

To estimate employee noise exposures with a sound level meter it is

also generally necessary to take several measurements at different locations
within the workplace. After appropriate sound level meter readings are
obtained, people sometimes draw “maps” of the sound levels within different
areas of the workplace. By using a sound level “map” and information on
employee locations throughout the day, estimates of individual exposure
levels can be developed. This measurement method is generally referred to
as area noise monitoring.

As an overall, this area monitoring can be used to estimate noise exposure

when the noise levels are relatively constant and employees are not mobile.
In workplaces where employees move about in different areas or where the
noise intensity tends to fluctuate over time, noise exposure is generally more
accurately estimated by the personal monitoring approach.
Figure: Part of Sound Level Meter

Problem Statement:
The review of the literature indicates that noise has a series of health effects,
in addition to hearing impairment. Some of these, such as sleep deprivation,
are important in the context of environmental noise, but are less likely to be
associated with noise in the workplace. Other consequences of workplace
noise, such as annoyance, hypertension, disturbance of psychosocial well-
being, and psychiatric disorders have also been described (de Hollander et
al., 2004).

For occupational noise, the best characterized health outcome is

hearing impairment. The first effects of exposure to excess noise are
typically an increase in the threshold of hearing (threshold shift), as assessed
by audiometry. This is defined as a change in hearing thresholds of an
average 10 dB or more at 2000, 3000 and 4000 Hz in either ear (poorer
hearing) (NIOSH, 1998).

The consequences of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) includes social

isolation, impaired communication with coworkers and family, decreased
ability to monitor the work environment (warning signals, equipment
sounds), increased injuries from impaired communication and isolation,
anxiety, irritability and decreased self-esteem, lost productivity, and also
expenses for workers’ compensation and hearing aids (de Hollander et al.,

The area monitoring was conducted at Utusan Melayu factory in Bangi,
Selangor which performed at 30th September 2009. A walk-through assessment was done
first by all group members in order to define the noise problem and the source for noise
measurement and control plan. Once the source was identified, then the layout of the area with
machinery location is drawn. The data which come out from the instrument used were jotted
down. Then, the noise contours of below 80 dB(A), 80 dB(A) to 84 dB(A), 85 dB(A) to 89
dB(A), and 90 dB(A) and above were sketched on the plan which later are colored for

The measurement was conducted by walking with the meter (SLM)

through the marks distance from the noise source (the machine) for each
noise contour being measured. Then, all the points for each contour are
jointed to complete the zone.

Sound Pro Quest SLM was used along our assessment in order to identify the
sound level of noise around the source (machine) that generates hazardous
levels of noise.

Quality Control:
The SLM was calibrated first according to the user manual using “Quest
Standard Calibrator” before use. When measuring the noise emitted from
the machine, background noise was taken into consideration. Background
noise was measured when the machine was turned off while the sound level
of machine was measured when the machine was turned on. The sound
level obtained will be corrected using a curve provided in the user manual to
eliminate the background noise


i) To define the noise problem and provide the source for a noise
measurement and control plan.
Based on our walk-through assessment, we managed to identify the
machine as the source of noise. Noise level surround the machine were
around 80 dB(A) to 90 dB(A).
The working area (WA) that the worker have to be is divided into WA1 and
WA3 which noise exposure are in range 80 dB(A) to 84 dB(A) while the WA2
is in range 85 dB(A) to 89 dB(A). There are two workers were working at
WA1, two worker were working at WA2 and six to eight worker were perform
their work at WA3.

This finding indicates that some control measure must be done to

reduce the risk of hearing loss among the workers whose perform their work
at WA2 which noise exposure are in range 85 dB(A) to 89 dB(A). Based on
Noise Regulation, this is an action limit which the hearing conservation
program should be done for that worker.
ii) To identify the specific noise sources within the area.
We have found and identified a noise source within the area. It is comes out
from a machine which the only one that run on that moment on that
particular monitoring area.

iii) To draw-out a layout of the area with machinery location.

The wall

The run machine

(noise source)

Scale is
is 11 cm
cm :: 11 m

iv) To sketch noise contours of below 80dB(A), 80dB(A) to 84dB(A),

85dB(A) to 89dB(A) and 90dB(A) and above on the layout plan.

WA 2
WA 3

WA 1
v) To determine whether any of the employees are exposed to noise
greater than action level of 85 dB(A) at a particular workplace.

Since there are two workers whose perform their work at WA2 which noise
exposure is range between 85 dB(A) to 89 dB(A), thus both of them are
exposed to noise greater than action level. There are no any worker who
work at area with 90 dB(A) and above based on our observation during work-
through survey.

The assessment of noise exposure monitoring was done successfully by
making a noise contour mapping based on the data and information given
from reading which directly shown on the screen of Sound Pro Quest SLM on
30th September 2009 (the day where the assessment was done). This result
is actually totally depends on the working conditions during the days. This is
because, although there are lot of operational machines such as for printing
and transferring the paper, but not the entire machine were runs

In our point of view and also based on our study, we are assume that,
if there are lot of machines were operated in the same time, the noise
exposure level might be arise over the action level at 85 dB(A) or possibly
exceed than Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) at 90 dB(A) or above. But,
since there is only one machine was operated on that time (period of the
assessment was done), thus the noise exposure level might be possibly low
and acceptable. However, if this result was not complied with daily
occupational noise exposure, then this report can be considered as null and

Based on the result, there are only two routine workers which exposed
to noise exposure which greater than action level of 85 dB(A). Therefore,
there is need for periodic personal noise exposure monitoring to be carried
out for them in order to indicate the extent of the severity of an employee’s
noise exposure.

Fortunately, there is no any worker need to perform their work at area

which exceeded PEL of 90 dB(A) and also not too many worker were expose
to noise exposure which greater than action level of 85 dB(A). Most of the
worker were perform their work routinely at the acceptable area which noise
exposure level is in range between 80 dB(A) to 84 dB(A).
By referring to the map, we can see that there is an area with noise
which reach or exceed 90 dB(A)(red zone). From our observation then
followed by some interview session, there were two additional motors which
functioning as additional power supply to the machine. Besides that, the
location of the machine near to the concrete wall might be a contributor to
the high level of noise (green zone as 85 to 89 dB(A). Fortunately, there are
no workers in red zone.
level at or


Based on the requirement of Factory and Machinery (Noise Exposure)

Regulation 1989, if the noise levels are below 85 dB(A) on a time-weighted
average basis in the area, no further routine monitoring will be required for
that area. Should any of the noise measurements equal or exceed 85 dB(A),
records shall be maintained as to the noise levels recorded, where they were
taken, and the source(s) of the noise. These records shall be updated at least
once every two years to determine if any changes have occurred that would
warrant re-monitoring of exposed personnel. If any of the measurements
equal or exceed a noise level of 85 dB(A), employees who work in or near the
high noise area or equipment shall have their noise exposure determined
through personnel monitoring using noise dosimeters (NDM).
Since only two workers are exposed to noise exposure at or greater
than action level of 85 dB(A) while most of them working at acceptable noise
exposure, their employer still provide the personal protective equipment
(PPE) like ear plug or ear muff in order to prevent all the employees from
suffering or exposed to noise which possibly harm the hearing ability at the

There is a scenario at Utusan Melayu factory which we were told by the

employer itself that there is some control measure which already
implemented on that particular area (which noise exposure level was taken).
At first, the employees were provided an ear plug for each of them.
However, the employees refuse to use in order the difficulties to
communicate with each other to perform their task because they need to
remove the ear plug first. This action increases another awareness which is
the contamination of ear plug because they need to touch the ear plug with
contaminated hand or finger (since they also have contact with a lot of

Thus, the employees than were provided with ear muff. However, they
claim that the ear muff likely to gift some stress towards their head (bone
around ears) which causing headache since they need to used it almost 8
hours per day. Then, the employees were provided other type of ear plug
which likely more preferable (although less efficient from the first one). But
still, most of the workers still not use the PPE given because they might not
aware about their health especially the hearing site which might be possibly
affected day by day because of expose to noise (which sometime reach
action level or exceed PEL)routinely.

There is some recommendation that we would like to suggest for the
employer for this Utusan Melayu factory which listed as below. However, if
not practicable the suggestion can be neglected.

Since the elimination of noise source (the machine) likely not

practicable for this factory, the substitution of the machine with the new
machine which produce a lower sound might be practicable if the financial
status is good. However, if that particular machine is a new one, then no
need to replace it.

An installation of noise absorbing material in the wall then can be

applied as one of the engineering control. The reason for this suggestion is
an absorbing material such as acoustical foam. This noise absorber is
designed to reduce reflected noise and dissipate noise energy. The open cell
structure of acoustical foam dissipates noise energy to control harsh
reflected noise and reverberations in enclosed surroundings (Netwell: Noise
Control Solutions, 2000).

Since there are only involve a small range of worker around the
machine, may be the exposure duration of the employee can be decreased
by applying a work-shift. However, if all of these are not practicable, the
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be introduced.

Type of PPE is hearing protection devices (HPDs) which are earplugs and earmuffs.
Earplugs can be made of foam or a polymer. Foam plugs are shaped like small cylinders that you
roll and compress then insert into your ear canal. Polymer plugs are "rubbery" and have flanges
or fins. Earmuffs have a cup design with noise dampened cushions that surround the ear to seal
off noise. Some earmuffs are designed to accommodate hardhats. Some allow radio
communication with others who have the same type of earmuffs. Custom earplugs are custom-
made for your ears by an audiologist. Custom earplugs are comfortable and provide maximum
However, the factory should choose an appropriate noise reduction rating of the ear plug.
NRR is the greatest amount of sound reduction that a hearing protection device can provide. A
higher NRR decibel (dB) rating means a greater amount of noise reduction. For example, an
earplug with a noise reduction rating of 29 dB provides more protection than an NRR 25 earplug.
We would like to suggest the appropriate NRR is NRR 20 which can reduce the exposure toward
noise until 83.5 dB(A) ≈ 84 dB(A), which is under action level for noise.

The NRR calculation:-

NRR – 7 = x 20 – 7 = 13
x/2=w 13 / 2 = 6.5
SPL – w = y 90 – 6.5 = 83.5 ≈ 84 dB(A)

It is known that the PPE is already introduced to

the whole worker. However, most of them are not using the PPE given (ear
muff or ear plug) until some of them require a medical treatment due to the
hearing loss (told by the employer itself). Thus, we would like to suggest that
the implementation of using PPE should be more stringent to ensure that
entire worker follow the direction. It is more worthy if the factory only spends
the money to buy the PPE rather than the payment of medical fees which
possibly increases from times to times.

Our assessment of noise exposure of area monitoring which done at Utusan
Melayu factory have indicated that most point of measurement are in range
between 80 dB(A) to 84 dB(A) which no further routine monitoring will be
required for that particular area. However, for the area which noise exposure
level above action level of 85 dB(A) likes WA2, further personal noise
monitoring must be carried out for those workers to indicate the extent of
the severity of an employee’s noise exposure by using noise dosimeter
(NDM) instrument (under the Factories and Machinery (Noise Exposure)
Regulation 1989).

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4, 2009 from The Department of Labor & Economic Growth, Michigan
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Available at

2) Campbell-Lendrum, D. (n.d.). (2004). Occupational Noise: Assessing

The Burden of Disease From Work-Related Hearing Impairment at
National and Local Levels (series no. 9) (online). Retrieved October 28,
2009 from World Health Organization, Protection of the Human
Environment, Geneva 2004. Available at

3) John Wertel (May, 2000). Experimental Analysis of Noise Reduction:

Properties of Sound Absorbing Foam by Scotty. Retrieved November 5,
2009 from The Graduate College University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Available at

4) NIOSH (1972). “Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational

Exposure to Noise (Revised Criteria 1998).” U.S. Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare, National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health, DHEW (NIOSH) (Publication No. HSM 73-ll00l, Cincinnati, OH).

5) Nims D. K. (1999). Basics of Industrial Hygiene. Canada: John Wiley &

Sons, Inc.
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