Federal agencies Hearing conservation

Boeing Co. helicopter production group wins NIOSH’s annual Safe-in-Sound award

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Photo: Boeing Co./NIOSH

Washington — The team that produces the Vertical Lift AH-64 Apache helicopter developed by the Boeing Co. is the recipient of the 2021 NIOSH Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award.

The award recognizes organizations and professionals who implement effective practices or innovations that contribute to the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus on the job. The National Hearing Conservation Association presented the award Feb. 26, in partnership with NIOSH and the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation.

Produced in Mesa, AZ, and used by the U.S. Army, among other global customers, the helicopter uses an advanced air conditioning system to regulate the temperature of the cabin and various electronics. Fans produce loud noises that may lead to permanent hearing loss, according to a NIOSH press release. Hearing protection is required when the helicopters are tested, resulting in difficulty communicating.

To address the issue, production workers and engineers developed a noise suppression kit. Comprising a baffled box containing sound-absorbing foam that is rolled against the exhaust outlet, the kit mitigates noise levels 50% to 72%, reducing sounds to 85 decibels or less when workers are 5 feet from the noise source.

“As demonstrated by some of the previous Safe-in-Sound award recipients, this year’s winner showcases the success of an intervention that resulted from the active involvement of workers and in-house expertise,” Thais Morata, senior research audiologist at NIOSH and director of the Safe-in-Sound award, said in the release. “With appropriate tools, facilitation, resources and encouragement, workers identified the problem and helped develop a cost-effective noise control solution.”

NIOSH, NHCA and CAOHC are accepting nominations for the 2022 Safe-in-Sound award through July 15. To submit a nomination, email nominations@safeinsound.us. The winner will be recognized at NHCA’s next annual conference, set for Feb. 10-13 in Albuquerque, NM.

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