In facilities of all stripes, thermal insulation blankets keep energy flowing efficiently and protect workers from injuries, but acoustic blankets also protect workers and promote safety. In addition to its reusable thermal safety blankets, Shannon Global Energy Solutions also manufactures acoustic blankets, designed to muffle equipment that gets dangerously loud (e.g., 110 dBA for two minutes). Constant exposure to noise over a certain decibel (dBA) level can cause permanent hearing damage. Because many facilities rely on heavy machinery to do business, hearing loss can be a more insidious workplace safety issue than one would think.
“Safety, it’s not done for any reason other than safety,” said Mike Makofsky, Northeast regional manager for Shannon. “While one can survive a burn . . . once you lose your hearing, it’s permanent.”
To protect the hearing of workers, OSHA requires that employees not be exposed to sounds louder than 85 dBA over an eight-hour period. Sounds over 100 dBA, which one might find at a construction site, should be limited to just 15 minutes exposure per day.
For equipment with lower noise levels, a standard insulation blanket can handle the job.
“Due to the 11-pound density of the fiberglass material that we use for thermal, which gives us great thermal properties, we also get acoustic reduction properties,” said Makofsky.
The difference between thermal and acoustic blankets is the interior of acoustic blankets are coated with a substance called barium sulfate, which reflects sound energy, trapping it between the blanket and the component. This can reduce sound levels by as much as 10-15 dBA, compared to the 2-4 dBA reduction from a thermal blanket.
Acoustic blanket insulation can also solve multiple issues simultaneously. A pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in northern New Jersey came to Shannon, looking to address noisy equipment when developers began building a condominium nearby. After assessing which components contributed the most to the noise emanating from the plant, Shannon designed acoustic insulation curtains to isolate these components from the neighboring area. The installation of acoustic blankets also allowed employees to use the plant’s outdoor space on the other side of the curtains from the noisy components without endangering the workers’ hearing.
To determine if you might need Shannon acoustic blankets in your facility, download this free sound level meter from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/app.html and measure conditions for yourself.