Even without a manufacturing component, warehouses can get awfully…loud, can’t they?

The constant hustle and bustle of people, products, and machines can start to get a little exhausting after a while, not to mention the various health risks. OSHA standards demand that workers be exposed to a time-weighted average noise level of only 85 decibels during an 8-hour shift—to put that in context, a loud concert is between 100 and 120 decibels, and a normal conversation is only about 60 decibels.

While some noise can’t be avoided, in many cases there are small steps you can take to make your warehouse a little more comfortable on the old eardrums:

 

Quieter conveyors

One of the most common sources of warehouse noise is conveyor belts. While many old-fashioned conveyors use motors or gearboxes to roll products around, gravity conveyors tend to roll manually and are much quieter to use—and have the benefit of being a little easier to maintain.

 

Ear protection as needed

Every warehouse job generally requires some form of ear protection, but there’s never really a one-size fits all solution for these problems. Instead of forcing your entire staff to wear clunky over-the-ear headphones, provide different solutions for different jobs—heavier headphones for forklift drivers, smaller earplugs for staff on the floor, and so on.

 

Provide quieter places to work as able

In a lot of cases, certain job titles or responsibilities are going to have a noise level that’s hard to get away from—but for managers, inventory counters, or back-room staff, you may want to consider designing an in-plant office to give your office workers a place to get things done on the shop floor that won’t directly expose them to the noise and bustle of the outside. This can also be a great way to create a much quieter break room for your staff to dip into and recharge when things get too hectic in the shop.

 

Avoid abusing the PA system

While it might sound like a great “fun boss” idea to play music over the PA at work, this can actually start to negatively impact the overall noise floor of the warehouse—and it’ll make things awkward when nobody can agree on what music to play. Let your staff bring their own iPods or phones to listen to music through, and save the party vibe for Friday afternoons before everyone heads home.

 

Soundproof the loudest areas

In extreme cases, you may experience increased noise in areas with a lot of metal shelving or pallet racks due to the sound echoing off the metal shelves and (generally) bare walls. Do like the obnoxious kids in a band in your neighborhood did (or should do) and track down some cheap soundproofing foam to hang up in the corners and around the walls to cut down on echoes and noise reflections.

 

Get your staff to check their blood sugar

No, wait, really—heightened blood sugar levels are commonly linked with issues like tinnitus and hearing loss, not to mention a ton of other health issues. Encourage workers exposed to noise to get their blood sugar checked regularly to help reduce these risks. You might get some strange looks when you suggest it, but it’ll be better for everyone in the long run.

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