An assessment of occupational noise exposures in four construction trades

Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. Nov-Dec 1999;60(6):807-17. doi: 10.1080/00028899908984506.


Three hundred thirty-eight noise exposure samples were collected from 133 construction workers employed in 4 construction trades: carpenters, laborers, ironworkers, and operating engineers. Four sites using a variety of construction techniques were sampled at least 12 times on a randomly chosen date over a 22-week period. Up to 10 volunteer workers were sampled for an entire work shift on each sampling day using datalogging noise dosimeters, which recorded both daily time-weighted averages (TWAs) and 1-min averages. Workers also completed a questionnaire throughout the workday detailing the tasks performed and tools used throughout the day. Regression models identified work characteristics associated with elevated exposure levels. Comparisons were made between exposures measured using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exposure metric and the 1996 draft National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health/International Organization for Standardization (NIOSH/ISO) metric to examine the effects of differing exchange rates and instrument response times on construction noise exposures. The mean OSHA TWA for 338 samples was 82.8 dBA +/- 6.8 dBA, whereas the mean NIOSH/ISO TWA for 174 samples was 89.7 dBA +/- 6.0 dBA. Forty percent of OSHA TWAs exceeded 85 dBA, and 13% exceeded 90 dBA, the OSHA permissible exposure limit. The tasks and tools associated with the highest exposure levels were those involving pneumatically operated tools and heavy equipment. Trade was a poor predictor of noise exposure; construction method, stage of construction, and work tasks and tools used were found to be better exposure predictors. An internal validation substudy indicated excellent agreement between worker self-reporting and researcher observation. These data provide substantial documentation that construction workers in several key trades are frequently exposed to noise levels that have been associated with hearing loss, and demonstrate the need for targeted noise reduction efforts and comprehensive hearing conservation programs in the industry.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Metallurgy*
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S.
  • Noise, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • United States
  • United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Washington / epidemiology