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  7. How Fitting a Larger Fan May Cause Noise Health and Safety Issues

How Fitting a Larger Fan May Cause Noise Health and Safety Issues

The Dangers Of Hot Tools And Machinery

A large industrial ventilation fan

Tools and machines often generate a tremendous amount of heat as they perform their particular operations.

This heat can not only reduce the life of the components inside and cause the machine to malfunction or break down completely, but in serious cases it can even be responsible for starting a fire - especially if it is situated near flammable material - or causing an explosion.

The potential danger in terms of the health and safety of people is therefore great as it can affect a number of individuals over quite a wide area if a fire were to take hold and spread, or the explosion was particularly large and/or damaged structures and caused a collapse.

Using Fans To Cool Components

In order to combat this heat problem, many machines make use of fans which blow air over the hot component and expel the air out of the back through a vent. This sufficiently cools the parts to enable the machine to operate normally without overheating and causing a danger. It is therefore imperative that vents are not covered and are kept clear at all times in order to allow the hot air to escape, otherwise the machinery will quickly overheat and have the potential to cause a fire or explosion. Whilst many machines will have automatic safety cut-outs which will shut the machine down when it gets too hot, the heated components still create a significant risk of fire.

Cooling Fans Can Create A Lot Of Noise

Whilst fans can be extremely effective in cooling hot components and bringing their temperature down, they can also be noisy. This is likely to be nothing more than an inconvenience on many small pieces of equipment such as computers, but on large piece of machinery these fans can be loud, especially if there is more than one of them in operation and spinning at high speeds.

One remedy for this issue is to fit one large fan that rotates at a slower speed. Although this will create less high-pitched noise which will often reduce sound levels down to a safe level which will not damage the hearing of people nearby, the lower frequency noise will travel further and may provide a nuisance to people over a far greater area.

It is important when it comes to any health and safety issue that introducing a remedy for one situation does not create a different hazard which poses a danger. An important aspect of risk assessments and remedial action involves determining how one action can impact another process and potentially introduce a new hazard.

Even more of a risk to the hearing of workers are very large fans which are used in situations such as air extractors to prevent the build-up of hazardous substances in the air. These fans need to be particularly large in size in order to perform this function, and as a result can be noisy. A suitable risk assessment needs to be carried out in order to assess the risks to the hearing of those working in the building, not to mention anybody who happens to be visiting the site.

The Importance Of Maintenance

A spinning fan can cause a lot of noise even when it is operating in a perfect condition, but should a fan blade or the housing casing come loose slightly, noise levels can rise significantly. Typically this is because of excessive vibrations, and is something which needs to be fixed as soon as possible as it will only get worse.

Proper maintenance of machinery is not just limited to preventing and remedying noise issues though. It is an essential element of a company’s health and safety programme, as machinery and equipment which is not maintained correctly can end up being the cause of serious injury or death to a worker. In the example above for instance, if the fan housing casing is mounted on the wall and is not correctly maintained it could ultimately come loose and fall down onto somebody’s head below.

Costs And Downtime Should Not Be The Priority

A lot of noise issues can be made safer for everyone around through modifications such as the installation of an enclosure or a redesign of the fan and assembly. However, as this noise case study on the HSE website shows, plans can often be expensive and require a large period of far from ideal downtime.

Just as it is with maintenance, costs and potential downtime should not be the dictating force when it comes to making health and safety decisions. Not only are there moral and legal obligations regarding the health and safety duties of employers, but a worker or workers who are involved in an accident can end up costing the company a great deal more money than it would have cost to put right the original safety issues.

Larger Fans Typically Make More Noise

A business which is experiencing cooling issues on one of its components may decide to install a larger fan in order to increase airflow. Or, it may be the case that ventilation of the working environment is not adequate and more air needs to be pushed through the building.

Unless new technology has made the larger fan no louder than the original, then it is highly likely that this bigger fan will be louder and emit a higher decibel level of sound. This will present a greater hazard to the health and well-being of employees, with an increased likelihood of damaged hearing.

Also, if a larger fan is installed on equipment which circulates water or liquid through pipes and vents and these are not upgraded too, it can result in increased noise levels, so it is not just the fan itself which needs focusing on and thinking about. Even a fairly straightforward modification, such as widening pipes to reduce the pressure in them, can reduce the overall noise to a much more acceptable and safer level.

Related Noise Pages:

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