Why Monitoring Noise and Vibration Control in Industrial Equipment is Important

Any powered piece of industrial equipment will vibrate when it is operational. While this fact cannot be avoided, it does present two major problems. Machinery vibrations ultimately break down machine parts, causing wear and tear on nearly every single tooling component. Machine maintenance can become a constant problem if excessive down time is required to service equipment and parts. Preventing excessive movement through vibration control will save maintenance time and money.

In addition to saved machinery, vibration control will also preserve workers’ health. Vibrations not only cause damage to machines, but they create high noise levels. OSHA regulations define laws to limit the average noise level that a worker will encounter in an eight-hour shift as well as the maximum sound level that is permissible. Machinery that is operating with the minimum of excessive vibration will cut down on both the ambient sound level and reduce the maximum sound level present.

For these two very good reasons, examining effective vibration control is a wise investment in both machine and worker health.

Benefits For Machinery

During the operation of powered industrial equipment, vibrations will put stress on each tooling component in a machine. The constant motion, even if it is small or invisible to the naked eye, will cause cyclical stress. This type of stress is characterized by applying a load and then removing said load. Individual loads or stresses might not be enough to damage materials, but repeated low-level stress will eventually become cumulative and cause failure. In this way vibrations cause machine failures when you wouldn’t expect to see high strength components to fail.

In addition to cyclical stress that causes material failure, machines can also “walk” from excessive vibration. When industrial equipment is not set on a level surface, or the machine itself is not balanced, the equipment will actually move during operation. Moving machinery is a small disaster in itself. Keeping the equipment in its place guarantees accurate operation, prevents machines from damaging themselves, and will keep workers safe from being struck by heavy parts.

Worker Health Benefits

OSHA regulates the acceptable noise levels that workers may be exposed to. They break down noise levels into two categories, a time-weighted average over a workday, and a maximum level for any sound, even for just a moment. For an eight-hour day, the permissible limit is 90 decibels and even 85 decibels mandates a hearing conservation program to protect workers’ hearing. To put this in perspective, 85 decibels is equivalent to a garbage disposal or dishwasher running and 90 decibels would be a busy city street. The loudest sound possible that would cause instantaneous permanent hearing loss is 115 decibels, or a thunderclap or loud rock concert. It is not readily apparent how serious and easy it is for hearing loss to occur, but the science behind sound levels has proven that these sounds can cause hearing loss, prompting federal regulation.

There are only two ways to cope with hearing loss from loud machinery. If the sound level in a plant is greater than 85 decibels, then a federally mandated hearing conservation program must be implemented. Hearing conservation programs involve yearly auditory testing, earplug and earmuff use and training, and a lot of paperwork. In order to avoid such an endeavor, the machinery must run on balance and more quietly.

Vibration Control Methods

In order to safeguard equipment and protect the hearing of your workers, vibration control devices can be utilized. One of the methods is to use leveling pads to keep machines on balance. Just like a washing machine, if industrial equipment is running off balance it will shift and vibrate, causing damage and excessive noise. This method is an easy and inexpensive way to correct floors that are not level or machinery that does not have an equal distribution of its weight. Vibration pads can also be used under machinery and will reduce noise by simply absorbing and muffling vibrations.

Other ways to achieve vibration control include the use of vibration mounts. Like the shocks in an automobile, vibration mounts have mechanical or pneumatic dampening effect that will cancel out vibrations by providing an equal and opposite force to the vibration. A mechanical vibration mount will typically consist of a high-tension spring, very similar to a car’s shocks. Pneumatic devices use either compressed air or liquid in order to absorb shock by either filling or emptying a cylinder support.

With the many solutions available to level industrial equipment and dampen vibrations, there is no excuse to cause unneeded wear on machinery or risk workers’ hearing. Even low-level vibrations and sound levels are harmful to both man and machines.

Greg Palmer is an author for Reid Supply Company, an industrial equipment distribution company with a 60 year history supplying customers in all 50 states and over 40 countries with industrial equipment and products such as vibration control, leveling devices, and free CAD drawings.

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