Eliminating Noise Pollution in IT Work Environments


Workers no longer have to be subjected to noise’s damaging effects — or suffer frostbite, for that matter.

By Yoel Naor, March 1, 2011

OH&S Magazine, Vol. 80 No. 3 March 2011

The wearing effects of noise pollution are well documented: Workers are put at risk for elevated blood pressure, hearing loss, and stress-related disorders. Even heart attacks have been attributed to chronic exposure to excessive noise. Researchers at Yale University concluded that stress caused by negative noise exposure can increase vulnerability to neuropsychiatric disorders.

While many of the problems from noise exposure are cumulative, short-term effects, such as the inability to concentrate and communicate, significantly affect productivity. The easiest rule of thumb is that noise is excessive when people can’t speak in normal conversational tones within a distance of 6 feet, or 2 meters. In an emergency, this inability to communicate can be life threatening.

Some IT workers are exposed to chronic noise pollution because of the fan speeds needed to cool equipment. They also are subjected to working in environments that are hyper-cooled. IT hardware generates a great deal of heat, and thermostats must be set low enough to offset this to prevent equipment burnout.

A recent IDC analyst study found the number one challenge facing data centers is power and cooling. According to a study by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, during a four-year period, the maximum temperature for operating IT equipment went up by 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). A lapse in an IT department’s cooling system of only a few minutes can result in server meltdown, a very expensive proposition from both the equipment and lost time and data perspectives.

The resulting cost of overcooling and creating noisy IT environments is high, both in terms of human cost and budgetary outlay. Poor work performance, absenteeism, chronic health problems, and soaring electrical bills are obvious outcomes of IT equipment stored in traditional dedicated storage rooms.

Click here for remainder of article.