Fire-fighter Noise Exposure During Training and General Equipment Use

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Multiple noise measurements were taken on 6 types of fire station equipment and 15 types of emergency response vehicle-related equipment used by firefighters during routine and emergency operations at 10 fire stations. Five of the six types of fire station equipment, when measured at a distance of one meter and ear level, emitted noise equal to or greater than 85 dBA, including lawn maintenance equipment, snow blowers, compressors, and emergency alarms. Thirteen of 15 types of equipment located on the fire engines emitted noise levels equal to or greater than 85 dBA, including fans, saws, alarms, and extrication equipment. In addition, noise measurements were taken during fire engine operations, including the idling vehicle, vehicle sirens, and water pumps. Results indicated that idling fire-engine noise levels were below 85 dBA; however, during water pump and siren use, noise levels exceeded 85 dBA, in some instances, at different locations around the trucks where firefighters would be stationed during emergency operations. To determine if the duration and use of fire fighting equipment was sufficient to result in overexposures to noise during routine training activities, 93 firefighter personal noise dosimetry samples were taken during 10 firefighter training activities. Two training activities per sampling day were monitored during each sampling event, for a mean exposure time of 70 min per day. The noise dosimetry samples were grouped based on job description to compare noise exposures between the different categories of job tasks commonly associated with fire fighting. The three job categories were interior, exterior, and engineering. Mean personal dosimetry results indicated that the average noise exposure was 78 dBA during the training activities that lasted 70 min on average. There was no significant difference in noise exposure between each of the three job categories. Although firefighters routinely use equipment and emergency response vehicles that can produce hazardous levels of noise, this study showed that the average noise levels experienced by firefighters was below generally accepted guidelines.


Originally published in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

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