Can You Hear Me Now? by James Kaznosky, Senior Environmental & Occupational Safety Specialist

From time to time, laboratories and shops may work with equipment that has the potential to produce elevated noise levels which may cause discomfort to the equipment user and nearby personnel. It is natural to assume that the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs), such as ear plugs and ear muffs, will remedy the situation. As true of any occupational exposure hazard however, the use of the hierarchy of controls to minimize potential exposure, discussed in the Winter 2014 SafetyMatters newsletter, should be applied before PPE is selected. Additionally, PPE must be appropriate for the task and the user must be trained on proper use and care of the equipment.

The first consideration is to determine if the activity may be producing potentially damaging levels of noise. You can use these simple context clues to help you make a decision if action needs to be taken:

  • When operating the equipment it is necessary to raise your voice to a yell to be understood by someone standing nearby;
  • The noise hurts your ears;
  • You develop a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears, even temporarily;
  • You don't hear as well as you normally do until several hours after working in proximity to the noise.

Administrative and engineering controls should be applied first to minimize noise. These may be as simple as limiting the time spent working with noisy equipment or ensuring that equipment is properly maintained (administrative) and noise isolation equipment, such as curtains and sound absorbing panels, are installed (engineering). Where engineering and administrative controls are not successful in lowering noise exposure to acceptable levels, PPE in the form of HPDs may be applied, but EH&S must perform a noise assessment prior to the selection and use of HPDs to ensure that the HPD is adequate for reducing the noise to a safe level.

If your laboratory or shop is working with equipment that produces potentially elevated noise levels, you can reach out to EH&S to schedule a noise risk assessment to assist in helping you make the right choices and to ensure that the process is documented for all users in your space.

EH&S is available to perform noise assessments by completing and submitting a request @

Corridor Clearance and Storage by Harry Oster, Senior Fire Safety Specialist

The New York City Building Code requires that minimum corridor widths shall not be less than 44 inches to allow for safe passage and egress. Within rooms, such as laboratories, with an occupant capacity of 50 persons or less, aisle space of 36 inches must be maintained. Egress is further addressed by the New York City Fire Code which emphasizes in several sections that storage of combustible material, such as cardboard boxes, books, paper, lab coats etc., is not allowed in corridors, unless specifically approved by the FDNY.

Fire Safety asks that you take a fresh look at the operational requirements for your laboratory and remove any combustible material that is stored in the corridor. For added assistance in discarding combustible items, contact
Facilities at 305-HELP (@ CUMC) or 854-222 (@ Morningside).

Please contact for additional guidance, as needed.

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