Research

Work noise slows reaction times

In an important simulation of a noisy workplace, researchers have shown that injury-causing fatigue and delayed reaction times in workers increase significantly as workplace noise levels increase.

From a coal mine noise simulation, researchers measured participants' ability to focus and their reaction times under incrementally increasing noise levels from 50 to 120 decibels, and found these behavioural ability indicators started to deteriorate significantly at 70db. As the noise exposure standard is 85db, this has implications for workplace safety.

The researchers from the China University of Mining and Technology say noisy workplaces need to control noise levels within the 70 to 80db range, as the greater the noise level the faster the participants' abilities declined, making them prone to “accidents”.

High noise levels also increased participants' fatigue, which slows down thinking and movements, and reduces coordination and accuracy of movement, the emergency management and safety engineering researchers found. These results are consistent with previous studies which showed the safety ability of workers like miners is significantly affected by a high-noise environment and must be controlled to prevent incidents and injuries. However, this study shows that this occurred at lower thresholds than the previously indicated 85-to-95db range.

Read more: Jing Li, et al: A simulation experiment study to examine the effects of noise on miners' safety behavior in underground coal mines. [Full text] BMC Public Health, Published online February 2021, doi: 10.1186/s12889-021-10354-2. Source: OHSAlert

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