OSHA Region 5 Targets Noise Levels in Manufacturing

OSHA Region 5 Targets Noise Levels in Manufacturing

truck-side-enclosure-amcraft-manufacturing

Manufacturing facilities might want to pay extra attention to employee noise exposure because OSHA definitely is. Noise levels in manufacturing facilities across multiple states are under increased scrutiny as a result of an OSHA regional emphasis program for Region 5, which includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. 

 

No new regulations have been announced. Instead, OSHA is focused on enforcing existing regulations to protect the hearing of manufacturing workers. To avoid potential penalties, manufacturing facilities should assess their workspaces for compliance with OSHA guidelines. If noise is a problem in your facility, acoustic panels, curtains, and baffle systems can help.

The Region 5 Regional Emphasis Program

In an effort to identify and reduce excessive noise exposure in manufacturing, OSHA Region 5 has joined several other areas of the country in creating a regional emphasis program aimed at noise. The program was announced in June 2021 for immediate implementation. Similar regional emphasis programs are already in effect in Regions 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7. 

While the name Regional Emphasis Program (REP) for Exposure to Noise Hazards in the Workplace sounds broad, the program focuses almost exclusively on the manufacturing industry. And with good reason. Workplace noise may be the biggest health and safety challenge facing the manufacturing industry today.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 75.9 percent of hearing loss cases occur in the manufacturing industry. Workers in transportation equipment manufacturing, food manufacturing, and fabricated metal product manufacturing make up the highest number of cases.

In an effort to address these issues, the REP empowers regional officials to: 

  • Schedule and conduct inspections of select manufacturing industries with hearing loss rates higher than the national average.
  • Encourage employers to identify, reduce and eliminate hazards associated with exposure to high levels of noise.
  • Provide notices and education around noise, hearing conservation programs, and OSHA regulations. 

 

If your facility is in Region V, you may receive communications from OSHA to remind you of regulations, invite you to engage in training sessions, and share the latest news about how noise affects workers. OSHA officials may also choose to inspect and review your operations, records, and health and safety programs.

You can find the full list of manufacturing industries being inspected by reviewing the OSHA REP declaration. It includes facilities manufacturing everything from concrete pipe to aircraft. Ultimately, whether your facility’s NAICS code is on the list or not, you should make meeting noise exposure guidelines a priority.

OSHA Noise Regulations and Penalties

OSHA penalties for failure to abate can reach up to $13,653 per day, while willful or repeated violations can cost up to $136,532 per violation. Those numbers don’t include the productivity losses and potential legal penalties that could result from inadequate noise protection for employees.

Inspectors operating under the REP may review your noise monitoring and conservation programs. They may also take their own readings throughout your facility. You’ll want to verify that your employees never exceed OSHA’s permissible exposure limit. OSHA recommends that employers keep noise levels below 85 dBA for an 8-hour shift. As dBA increases, the amount of time an employee can be exposed to the noise decreases. Excessively noisy workspaces can lead to productivity loss since employees are not allowed to spend as much time in the space.

Commercial Barn Curtain

Personal protective equipment like earplugs and headphones can help protect the hearing of manufacturing workers. But remember that employee noise exposures are computed without regard for personal protective equipment, per OSHA regulation 1910.95(c)(1). So an employee can’t work in 90 dBA for 8 hours even with ear protection. However, employers can make adjustments to the spaces where manufacturing employees work to help minimize noise.

Strategies for Reducing Worker Exposure to Noise

As mentioned above, PPE can help protect workers, but it’s not enough to meet OSHA standards for hearing conservation. You’ll need other strategies to bring noise levels down to acceptable ranges. These could include: 

  • Investing in quieter machines. This is often the most costly option since much of the equipment used in manufacturing is purpose-built and expensive to purchase.

  • Limiting worker exposure. This may help you meet the letter of the guideline, but it also reduces how long employees can work, which reduces productivity. Your losses will compound over time.

Installing acoustic panels, curtains, and baffle systems. Such acoustic barriers and containment systems can reduce noise, echo, and reverberation, with a much lower one-time investment than new machines. Over time, they can increase productivity by allowing workers to safely spend more time in the space.

Commercial Barn Curtain

Acoustic Panels Reduce Noise in Manufacturing Spaces

Sound barriers can minimize noise by either absorbing sound and vibration or by blocking them. The most effective solutions do both. While some noise is still reflected or transmitted, the overall A-weighted sound level is reduced.

Here are three  ways you can use acoustic sound barriers to meet OSHA noise regulations:

  1. Enclose the noise – if a piece of equipment is particularly noisy, you may want to enclose it with a single-barrier or double barrier curtain panel. These enclosures can protect employees outside the barrier from the noise of the equipment.

  2. Separate two noise sources – If you have multiple pieces of loud equipment, you can set up a double absorption single barrier to minimize exposure in both areas. Hanging these in an accordion pattern can increase sound absorption in both spaces.

Absorb overall noise – Multi absorption curtain panels and acoustic baffle systems can cover hard surfaces that would normally reflect noise and create echoes. You can use them on the ceiling, wall, or free-hanging to cover any hard surface in your workspace.

      corner baffle

Putting Industrial Curtains to Work in Commercial Barns

Putting Industrial Curtains to Work in Commercial Barns

Commercial Barn

For much of human history, agricultural duties have been performed on a small scale. In the 20th century, technology transformed agriculture into a highly specialized industry that is largely executed on a commercial scale to this day.

Commercial barns allow farmers to produce fruits, vegetables and grains and care for livestock en masse. However, that kind of scale requires careful management of the conditions within the barn. How can industrial curtains be used in different types of commercial barns?

Commercial Barn Uses

Commercial barns are larger, industrial facilities designed for specific purposes. Common products that are housed in these buildings include:

  • Produce. Farms growing large crops of produce, whether fruit or vegetables, need a commercial barn for conditioning and storing products. These barns can also store equipment necessary for farm operations, such as harvesting.
  • Dairy. Dairy farms need the space to care for the large number of cows responsible for milk production. Commercial dairy farms need areas for operations like milking and the birth of calves
  • Poultry. Chicken farmers need a commercial barn with precisely controlled environmental conditions to maximize poultry production.
  • Livestock. Livestock, like cattle, is another area of food production that requires a commercial barn. Like a dairy barn, a livestock barn needs the space to raise and pen animals.

Why Division of Space Matters

Commercial agriculture requires efficient production, whether that means growing the largest crop possible or managing a high number of animals, supported by precise control. Commercial barns are not simply large, wide-open facilities. Farmers need commercial barns to account for factors like:

  • Precise temperature control inside of a commercial barn keeps products from spoiling and keeps animals safe and comfortable. Different areas of a barn may need to be kept at different temperatures.
  • The way air moves throughout a commercial agriculture facility is another important consideration for product integrity and animal safety. Facility design and fans play a role in ventilation, as does the way the facility’s available space is separated.
  • Commercial barns also need separate areas for different operations. For example, animals need to be kept apart from processing equipment.
  • Contaminant control. Industrial curtains are also a proven way of creating contamination free environments. A great economical alternative to more expensive hard wall structures, these curtains can ensure produce, meat, and other agricultural elements are kept in separate controlled spaces to avoid cross contamination.
Commercial Barn Curtain

How Industrial Curtain Walls Can Help

Commercial barns can, of course, have solid walls in place, but this is not always practical if you are reorganizing or expanding your operations. Industrial curtain walls offer a cost-effective solution for managing temperature and airflow in separate spaces within barns.

You have the option of installing single-ply curtains or insulated barn curtains in a retractable or stationary configuration. In either scenario, curtains have add-on’s, or options, that will make the curtain airtight.   Floor sweeps, Velcro or magnet edges, valances, and filler panels ensure that the curtain can fit tightly to whatever structure you have in place.

Industrial curtains are made of durable and easy-to-clean material, qualities essential for life in a commercial barn. Curtain materials that are anti-microbial and food grade are also offered, to meet additional specifications required in different processing applications.  Hardware systems are offered in galvanized steel and stainless steel, as well.

Installed to meet your needs, commercial barn curtains can improve energy efficiency by managing airflow and temperature and protect products, animals, and equipment from the elements.

Learn more about how AmCraft can help you create a custom industrial curtain system for your commercial barn.

Adapting to Overhead Cranes

Adapting to Overhead Cranes

Overhead cranes are designed to lift and move heavy loads. In manufacturing facilities, this equipment can be used across a variety of industries, such as automotive and aviation. In warehouses, overhead cranes can be used to move any manner of bulky goods as they are stored, organized, and loaded for distribution.

 While essential to many facilities, overhead cranes can also present a challenge when it comes to the division of space. Large manufacturing plants often need discrete working spaces for different operations, while warehouses need that separation for the storage of different product types. How can facilities adapt to overhead cranes while using their space as efficiently as possible?

An AmCraft Solution

ABOVE THE CRANE

When a curtain is mounted above the crane rail, it is essential that it does not interfere with the crane’s movements and functionality. 

The curtain panels above the crane can be mounted parallel to or perpendicular to the crane as long as there are existing structural members available to support the curtain panels or strips.

AmCraft's PVC Strip Curtain
BELOW THE CRANE

Because the hardware for the curtain panels cannot be suspended from the ceiling, we offer a Free-Standing Track System, up to 12’ high, with 12” x 12” floor mounting plates.  The plates are used to secure each upright (upright support has a recommended spacing interval of 5’).  This Free-Standing Track System also allows the curtains to be retractable.

AmCraft's Freestanding Industrial Curtain

Creating Separate Spaces

Businesses need a way to separate areas to maintain temperature control and humidity control; to protect from contaminants; and to manage airflow. Building more walls to divide the space within a manufacturing plant or warehouse is not always feasible in terms of cost and utility, particularly when the facility has to use overhead cranes.

Overhead cranes can lift, lower, and move horizontally, making them a versatile tool, but they need to be able to move freely throughout a facility. Above the crane rail, strip curtains present an effective solution for creating the necessary isolated divisions within a facility without hindering the movement of overhead cranes, as well as equipment like forklifts.

Below the crane rail, some customers use the free standing track system (outlined above), and other customers opt to hang a cable.  This cable would need to be strung between two structural supports. Depending on the width of the cable and how well it is tensioned, the curtain could sag a bit in the center of the width; however it still offers a sturdy solution for hanging any of the following curtain solutions:

Single Layer Curtains – Separate space, control air movement

Thermal Curtain – Separate temperature (available in 5 different R-Values)

Acoustic Curtains – Separate Noise and Absorb Sound

Challenges to Consider

While strip curtains are the answer for many manufacturing facilities and warehouses with overhead cranes, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each facility has a different layout and different needs. Before deciding to get a quote on strip curtains, take into consideration:

 

  • Ceiling configuration. How does a facility’s ceiling come into play if you need to separate space above the overhead crane? Suspended mounting of strip curtains can accommodate easy movement of an overhead crane, but the measurement and installation of the curtains will depend on the slope of the ceiling. Will the cut of the curtain match that slope exactly? A suspended mount requires a one-inch overlap with the strip door bracket and the curtains.
  • Airtightness. While strip curtains allow for movement of overhead cranes, it remains important to ensure airtightness of certain areas. Curtains need to be precisely measured to allow equipment to move where necessary and to stop airflow as soon as that movement is completed.

A Knowledgable Solution

Industrial curtains- single layer, strip, thermal, or acoustic- are a great solution for your facility’s needs but understanding of how to best utilize them in your facility takes specialized knowledge. Our technical representatives’ partner with you to understand the particulars of your business and to get the exact measurements for your curtains. Reach out to us to get started on finding the right curtains for your manufacturing plant or warehouse.

    How to Repurpose and Keep Your Warehouse Space Flexible

    How to Repurpose and Keep Your Warehouse Space Flexible

    Repurposing Possibilities

    When not in use, warehouses tend to be expansive, high-ceiled spaces. You can imagine them as a blank canvas. If there isn’t a future in warehousing for the space, it can be completely repurposed in a number of ways. Industrial warehouse space can become:

    • An entertainment venue. Warehouse space could be repurposed to feature live music, or other entertainment like art or cinema. While it may seem like live music and any other in-person event are a distant memory, they will become a part of life again. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is cautiously optimistic that live entertainment could make a comeback this fall
    • Office space. While remote work has become the norm for many people during the pandemic, the need for office space is unlikely to vanish entirely. As the rollout of the vaccine progresses and we are able to move back toward normal life, companies will be looking for space for their employees. Warehouses could have a second life as medical offices or some other kind of business.  
    • Production space. Warehouses could be put to use for another industrial purpose, such as manufacturing or testing. Industries such as biotechnology are booming, which likely means the need for more space. 

     

    Reimagining Your Space 

    Warehousing space still remains important. You may not need to completely repurpose your space. Maybe you only need to reimagine how it is used. Whether you are condensing operations or expanding the type of products stored and distributed through your warehouse, it is likely you will need to change how you utilize your space. How can you do more with the warehouse space that you have?

     

    Remaining Flexible

    Industrial curtains can be used to change your warehouse’s layout and its capabilities.

    • Separate spaces. Industrial curtains can help turn your warehouse into a flexible, multipurpose work space. Whether you need an airtight section or an enclosed workspace for administrative functions, you can use warehouse curtains to effectively divide different aspects of your facilities operations. 
    • Temperature control. Insulated curtains can also be put to work in warehouses to create storage space designed for temperature-sensitive products, such as food or pharmaceuticals. 
    • Sound control. If any of your repurposed work space includes noisy operations, acoustic curtains can be used to reduce sound and create quieter working zones for other team members. 

    Opting for retractable curtains also allows you to remain flexible as the needs of your warehouse change over time. Learn more about AmCraft’s industrial curtains and how we can help you get the most out of your warehouse space. 

     

    Sources: 

    1. https://phoenix3pl.com/repurposing-older-buildings-as-distribution-centers/
    2. https://www.dbsg.com/blog/life-after-dark-tips-for-commercial-property-owners-to-repurpose-dark-retail/ 
    3. https://hmcarchitects.com/news/repurposed-commercial-buildings-from-abandoned-big-box-to-functional-space-2019-06-12/
    4. https://www.thinkcurrituck.com/blog/adaptive-reuse-for-industrial-properties-how-to-see-the-potential-and-what-to-look-for 
    5. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/dr-anthony-fauci-theaters-music-venues-reopen-fall-2021-1112542/ 
    6. https://theconversation.com/the-factories-of-the-past-are-turning-into-the-data-centers-of-the-future-70033 
    7. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-biotechnology-market 
    8. https://www.amcraftindustrialcurtainwall.com/ 
    9. https://www.amcraftindustrialcurtainwall.com/products/insulated-curtains/ 
    10. https://www.amcraftindustrialcurtainwall.com/products/industrial-curtain-walls/warehouse-curtains/ 
    11. https://www.amcraftindustrialcurtainwall.com/products/acoustic-curtains/
    Why Temperature Control is Important for Your Warehouse Employees

    Why Temperature Control is Important for Your Warehouse Employees

    Warehouses are a major hub of the logistics industry, storing everything from consumer packaged goods to electronics. Many warehouses store and handle temperature-sensitive products, such as food and pharmaceuticals. Maintaining the proper temperature is essential to supply chain integrity and product quality. However, products aren’t the only reason warehouse owners need to be concerned about temperature. Employee comfort and productivity are also important factors to consider.

     

    Temperature Control Challenges

    Warehouse utility management is complex. Environmental conditions need to be precisely controlled to ensure temperature- and humidity-sensitive items are safely stored before moving onto the next step in their supply chain journey. For many facilities, especially large ones that handle a wide variety of goods, this necessitates separate temperature zones.

    Discrete temperature areas in a large facility can lead to expensive energy bills, and it can be a challenge for the employees working the warehouse. Can the employees easily access different areas to do their jobs? Does moving from zone to zone affect the temperature or humidity control? Are employees comfortable while they do their jobs?

     

    How Insulated Curtains Work

    R4 R5 AmCraft Insulated Curtain

    Thermal insulated curtains are an effective temperature control tool for industrial and warehouse settings. Insulated curtains can work in tandem with heating and cooling systems and commercial humidifiers or dehumidifiers to keep precise environmental control in separate areas configured to your warehouse’s needs and can be retractable or stationary.

    The R-value of the product determines how high of a temperature differential a curtain can easily maintain. A curtain with a higher R-value means that maintain a higher temperature differential is possible, which is typically useful for industrial facilities with temperature extremes.

    Many warehouses find beneficial use for options on the lower R-value side, such as:

    • R-4 insulated soft wall curtains (retractable) – R-4 insulated curtains have a maximum height of 25 feet and one inch of insulation material with a maximum temperature differential of 22 degrees Fahrenheit. R-4 curtains have a retractable construction, allowing warehouses to easily reconfigure the curtains for their needs.
    • R-5 insulated soft wall curtains (stationary) – R-5 insulated curtains have a slightly higher temperature differential of 25 degrees Fahrenheit. This option also has one inch of insulation material, but they can reach 40 feet in height. R-5 curtains are designed for stationary use.

    Both types of curtains serve as barriers, creating temperature buffer zones wherever is needed in a warehouse.

     

    How can lightly insulated curtains help warehouses?

    • Product storage – Temperature and humidity control are a primary concern for product quality and safety during storage. Insulated curtains offer a durable, effective and flexible solution to warehouses’ environmental control challenges.
    • Loading docks – Products need to move through warehouse loading docks to shipping containers, but temperature control remains important in this area of the facility. Insulated curtains can be employed to maintain the proper temperature here as well as in the interior of the warehouse.
    • The retractable version of our Insulated curtains allows the ability to use the curtains as needed. For example, retractable curtains still allow for machining deliveries.
    • Energy bills – By creating the separate temperature zones necessary, a warehouse can heat and cool smaller areas more effectively. Employees can easily move from one zone to another, while curtains help contain the temperature-controlled air.
    • Employee comfort – Prolonged temperature extremes negatively affect employee productivity, and they are uncomfortable for your team. By creating separate temperature zones with insulated curtains, employees only need to move into areas of extreme heat or cold when necessary to their jobs.

    Take a look at our insulated curtains and ask us how our products can help your warehouse and your employees.

     

    Sources:

    1. https://www.amcraftindustrialcurtainwall.com/products/insulated-curtains/lightly-flexible-insulated-curtain-wall/
    2. https://www.amcraftindustrialcurtainwall.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/amcraft-specsheets-insulated-1-in.pdf
    3. https://www.kanbanlogistics.com/understanding-key-warehouse-temperature-terms-logistics/
    4. https://work.chron.com/temperature-workplace-impacts-productivity-5032.html