Can noise affect workers’ productivity and accuracy?

Loud noise levels in the offshore oil industry torment workers with hearing damage and tinnitus.

Many workplaces have noise levels that are too loud for the human ear. In the long term, a loud working environment can consequently be damaging to your hearing health, therefore it affects workers’ productivity and accuracy.

Offshore oil rigs and platforms are examples of such noisy workplaces. In 2001, more than 800 workers in Norway reported hearing damage or tinnitus as a result of their line of work.

A study from 2009-2011 by PSA, the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway, shows that 37% of workers in offshore oil productions are affected by damage to their hearing.

The importance of prevention

The National Association of Hearing Impaired in Norway, HLF, underlines the importance of hearing damage prevention and suggests lowering the noise level through usage of acoustic enclosures and silencers.

Organizations need to carefully think about the design of their workplace and how to manage noise levels. The negative effects of noise on employees can have financial impacts comparable with the positive impact of investing in acoustic improvements. Therefore, it makes good business sense to invest.

The impact of noise on performance

The British Journal of Psychology published a study that asked workers to perform two tasks, firstly tested without noise and then with a recording of general noise. The test with noise showed a decrease in the accuracy of their work by almost 67%. This test was made introducing noise at levels there are very low compared to offshore plants’ noise, it’s logic to predict that this percentage would increase when speaking of high-noise environments such as power generation plant or offshore platform.

Noise is very stressful and it can leave workers physically and mentally shaken. Prolonged exposure to loud noises can trigger physiologic stress responses in our bodies, including high blood pressure and an increased heart rate.

Studies show that workers are almost 65% less productive in a noisy work environment than employees who work in much quieter workplaces.

Moreover, HLF underlines that a person with reduced hearing is more likely to become physically exhausted at the end of a workday.

Acoustic solutions to mitigate noise

Stopson Italiana has been present for decades in the world market of soundproofing as one of the leading producers of acoustic enclosure, control cabins, and silencers.

Soundproofing solutions reduce noise pollution due to various sources and efficiently respond to any client’s needs.

    Absorptive for cold and hot gases, reactive for engines or small boilers exhaust, combined absorptive and reactive for venting systems. Circular or rectangular shape, atmospheric or pressurized for any gas, temperature range, and applications, providing sound attenuation up to 70 dB and reduce residual noise to a sustainable level.
    Shaped around noisy equipment, indoor or outdoor, on-base or off-base, designed to provide optimum noise attenuation in any critical environment. Made of modular acoustic panels and linings for sound isolation while ensuring equipment maintenance, ventilation, weather protection, and fire safety.

On-Site tests to make facilities/plants compliant

Together with its soundproofing products, Stopson Italiana provides on-site services making sure to fulfill the customer needs and meet the highest quality standards.

⟶ For More Information about Stopson Italiana soundproofing solutions click HERE 

The Importance of Silencing Offshore Noise operations

How and why to consider Noise Reduction as essential on offshore platform operations. Risks, rules and due diligence for the welfare of Oil and Gas workers.

Health and safety are a crucial aspect of any offshore operation. Several companies across the Oil and Gas industries are highlighting the importance of preserving the better condition of their workers in the last decades.

One of the most challenging issues is – in facts – operating in such a hazardous environment within a noiseless condition.

As reported by Offshore Europe Journal “Offshore workers are daily exposed to helicopters, loud turbines, and several mechanical noises for an extended time. Despite strict rules imposing the use of hearing protection, noise is still inducing hearing loss. Only in the Norwegian Oil and Gas industry, 600 cases/year of hearing loss are reported.

Nevertheless, researchers from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that over 30% of workers in the offshore sector are exposed to noise levels in excess of the action limit. This induces a forecast of 120 million people worldwide with disabling hearing difficulties. For example, new fields – often in deeper waters – are continually being discovered. These often require equipment operating at higher pressures and temperatures, creating even more difficult and noisy conditions in which to operate.


The Noise impact on Offshore workers

Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels has the potential to create a wide range of long term and often-irreversible health impacts. Beyond these: permanent hearing loss, cardiovascular diseases, sleep disturbance, stress, brain impairment, and mental health issues.

The effects for business should also not be underestimated where the requirement to limit noise levels often leads to lower productivity levels, with a need for increased staffing or shorter hours of operation. At a time when the offshore Oil and Gas industry is seeking to access deeper complex fields, the challenges remain significant and the opportunities for improved occupational health of staff and overall business productivity greater.


How the Noise Regulation has changed

Regulatory changes are also helping the industry to make significant steps towards safer practices. The key pieces of legislation applicable to noise within offshore installations within the UK are the Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 implemented under EU Directive 2003/10/EC) and HSE publication OTR2001/068 which outlines technical recommendations for the way in which noise and vibration should be taken into account in the design of offshore platforms. Exposure limits within the Norwegian sector are in line with EU legislation and NORSOK S002 sets similar standards to OTR 2001/068 for living and working areas.

The Control of Noise – as reported on Work Regulations 2005 – reduced the upper and lower action levels by 5 dB from 90 and 85 dB (A) in the previous directive to 85 and 80 dB (A) and introduced a new exposure limit of 87 dB (A).

Equally fundamental, the latest regulations move away from a focus of earlier legislation on assessment, quantification of exposure levels and consequent hearing protection, to a philosophy of controlling noise at source wherever possible.

Within the offshore industry, the move to access deeper fields, coupled with the close proximity pumps, compressors, valves and pipes, and noisy hand tools on a space-constrained single platform, means that specific expertise is required to accurately diagnose and treat platform noise control issues.


Acoustic Enclosures in offshore applications

Due to the increasing demand for higher performance of machinery, offshore manufacturers always seek for packaged acoustic enclosure options to mitigate the noise risk and save space.

Stopson Italiana can rely on more than 50 years of experience with a number of solutions ranging from on-skid mounted acoustic enclosures, on-skid acoustic screening, and both skids mounted and deck mounted fully encompassing acoustic enclosures, designed to be accessible by personnel for equipment maintenance purposes.

In line with the specification, packaged enclosure options include hazardous area compliant ventilation systems and filtration, hazardous area lighting and emergency back-up lighting. The can be equipped with full electrical fit out and terminated at internally or externally mounted junction boxes, as well as fire and gas detection and suppression systems.

In certain applications, it is necessary to consider accidental loads in conjunction with environmental loads. In relation to the design of acoustic enclosures, the most critical accidental loads to be considered in most offshore applications are blast loads. Stopson Italiana can engineer manufacturing enclosures that are designed to meet the specification requirements for the most onerous of blast load incidents.

Beyond the noise pressure levels, these designs need to take into account the spatial limitations in terms of access from/to/around the rig.

With raised health and safety standards within the offshore industry, the requirement for Oil and Gas companies to be compliant to noise control solutions has never been more central. Moreover, a recently changed law which places more crucial emphasis on ensuring employee welfare, noise treatment need to be prioritized through the design and development of offshore suppliers.