NIOSH Recommends Actions to Reduce Noise, Metal Dust Exposures in Manufacturing Facility

Published February 8, 2017

​Following a health hazard evaluation of a facility that manufactures security portals, NIOSH recommended several changes to reduce workers’ exposures to metal dust and noise. The evaluation was conducted by the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program in response to the employer’s concerns about employees’ exposures while sanding and sawing aluminum alloy.

According to the HHE report, bulk dust samples collected in the fabrication area to screen for metals contained mostly aluminum, chromium, manganese, and nickel, and employees were not overexposed to any of these. However, NIOSH suggests that the employer may further reduce metal dust exposures by improving housekeeping and other work practices, including using wet cleaning methods and storing respirators away from the contamination source. The report also notes that the employer should provide employees with Appendix D of the OSHA respiratory protection standard if voluntary respirator use is allowed. Workers should also receive training on voluntary respirator use.

NIOSH personnel also collected personal samples for noise on employees in the fabrication area of the facility and found that workers were overexposed to noise when sanding, milling, and sawing over an eight-hour shift. However, the report notes that because employees typically perform these tasks for only two to three hours per shift, the employer should re-evaluate noise exposures under “typical sanding and sawing production levels and whenever fabrication processes change.” NIOSH staff found that employees working near the milling and sawing operation were unnecessarily exposed to noise and suggested that the employer enclose the band-saw area to reduce noise exposure.

During the evaluation, NIOSH staff also observed employees using awkward postures, which the agency states is a risk factor for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. NIOSH urged the employer to reduce awkward postures through engineering or administrative controls.

For further details of NIOSH’s evaluation, see the full report (PDF).