What Pressman Should Know About Hearing Loss

I've written before about safety hazards in offset printing, but this time I wanted to share a recent audit of the noise levels around our web and sheetfed presses.  Here is what we found.  The results are rated in decibels (dB)

72 dB at our sheetfed presses
Press: Man Roland web press
Near folder: 94 dB
In front of printing units: 89 dB
Between printing units: 108 dB

Press: Heidelberg GTO sheetfed
Beside delivery: 72 dB

The results were not surprising on the sheetfed press as a recent study found that out of 10 sheetfed presses, the average 79.3 decibels.  That represents a minimal risk.  Here is how the industry ranks the above decibel rates.

No Risk (0-40 decibels)
30 dB - A whisper
48 dB - Normal conversation
Our web presses rated as high as 108 dB

Minimum Risk (40-84 dB)
70 dB - Traffic
75 dB - Hair dryer
80 dB - Garbage compactor

Moderate Risk (84-100 dB)

85 dB - Lawn Mower
85 dB - Blender
88 dB - Subway

High Risk (100 - 120 dB)
105 dB - Train
110 dB - Jack Hammer
120 dB - Thunder

Extreme Risk (120 dB and higher)
132 dB - Jet taking off
140 dB - Rock concert

Noteworthy is the fact that a 3dB increase in noise requires double the energy.  In other words 100 dB poses twice the risk as 97dB. 

The conclusion is that our sheetfed presses fall within the minimal to moderate risk category.  It may be a low risk, but just like fine sandpaper, hearing ability can slowly be worn down.  Hence our pressman should only be concerned with long term exposure and hence should wear protection while the press is running.  

Our web presses however pose a more serious threat.  The range of 89 to 108 decibels pose a moderate to high risk.  One to two hours of exposure to levels over 100 dB can cause permanent hearing loss.  Therefore we have imposed a mandatory requirement to wear ear plugs. If pressmen go between the units for any length of time, they must double up their hearing protection by wearing ear plugs and ear muffs.

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