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Another Kind of Curtain Wall Controlling facility noise with industrial fabrics by Chuck Ashelin All images courtesy ZoneWorks THE EFFECTS OF MACHINE OR PROCESS NOISE IN A COMMERCIAL/INDUSTRIAL FACILITY CAN RANGE FROM AN ANNOYANCE TO A SERIOUS LONG-TERM SAFETY ISSUE FOR EMPLOYEES. THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA) ESTIMATES MORE THAN 30 MILLION WORKERS ANNUALLY ARE EXPOSED TO HAZARDOUS SOUND LEVELS IN THE UNITED STATES. The source of this exposure takes many forms: • assembly and machine tool operation; • process equipment (e.g. pumps, compressors, and blowers); • material-handling equipment (e.g. conveyors and fork trucks); and • power hand-tools (e.g. saws, grinders, and drills). Reduction of excessive noise levels is important as an employee safety issue. The effects of human exposure to levels beyond 90 decibels (dB) are cumulative—that is, permanent hearing loss is related to accumulated time exposed to these high levels over a lifetime. OSHA mandates employers to limit employee noise exposure to 90 dB or less on an eight-hour time-weighted average basis. In typical industrial environments, employers are obligated to monitor workplace sound levels to determine where they stand in relation to this threshold. If found to be above the 90-dB limit, they are required to take action to reduce employee exposure to levels below the limit. On such option would be the use of ‘curtain walls’—an assembly more literal than the glazed building enclosure many associate with this term. 44 the construction specifier | march 2013 CS_Mar2013.indd 44 2/14/13 10:04:14 AM