Buy Quiet

Implementing a Buy Quiet program can reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss, increase worksite awareness, lower impact on community noise and decrease equipment costs over the long-run.


Buy Quiet is a prevention-through-design (PtD) initiative that calls for purchasing quieter tools to not only minimize all life-cycle costs but also reduce the operator’s risk of noise exposure.

Some companies may implement hearing conservation program (HCP) elements including annual audiograms, training and providing hearing protection equipment for affected employees (Figure 1).  However a Buy Quiet Program enhances these activities by reducing or even eliminating the need for other HCP elements.  When noise levels can be reduced to below 85 dBA on a time-weighted average, Buy Quiet Programs have the potential not only to be more effective in protecting workers’ hearing but can also be cost-effective in the long-run.

Figure 1. Hearing protective equipment, Image source:

Buy Quiet is also a cost-effective PtD solution, since many companies do not have adequate resources (e.g., financial resources and technical expertise) to retrofit noisy tools currently in use.  Ultimately, buying quieter tools is often more effective and economically beneficial than implementing noise control practices after the fact.

As part of a broader “hearing loss prevention program,” NIOSH has provided material for contractors concerning the importance and cost-effectiveness of Buy Quiet and how to implement this program.  NIOSH is leading the effort (via its power tools database) to make noise-level data for different tools and equipment available to those purchasing/renting tools.  The database consists of downloadable sound level recordings of various tools to help companies make procurement decisions (Figure 2:  A power tool rated only 3 dBA lower than a tool currently in use will cut the noise energy level in half.


Figure 2. NIOSH power tool database:

NIOSH also suggests that purchasers keep a noise-level inventory of existing tools and equipment within their companies to be compared with the noise emission levels of new tools prior to purchase. NIOSH is working to drive wider future adoption of engineering controls for noise hazards by motivating the construction industry to develop and begin Buy Quiet programs. In addition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also has developed the “Buy Quiet Road Map,” a program that identifies and describes various low-noise-emission tools and equipment to be used in hearing conservation programs. (Visit

In conclusion, Buy Quiet is the most strategic way to minimize life-cycle costs because (1) noise is often a waste byproduct and an indication of an inefficient process (i.e., lower noise designs reflect better engineering); (2) investment in retrofit control is not cost effective; and (3) low-noise designs are environmentally friendly and ergonomically superior (American Society of Safety engineers website: Generally, by prioritizing the purchase of quieter equipment, the contractor can improve safety and encourage equipment manufacturers to make sound-emission information available in product descriptions.




Risks Addressed:

Noise-induced hearing loss remains a serious health concern in the U.S. because it affects workers in a wide range of sectors, such as construction, mining, manufacturing, and many others.  Exposure to excessive hazardous noise can lead to permanent hearing loss[1].  Each year, more than 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise (>85 dBA)[2]. Annually, businesses spend more than 200 million dollars in compensating workers with hearing loss. [3]Overall, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss increases when workers fail to wear hearing protection devices.  Several reasons for this failure include that workers report discomfort, hindered communication and reduced situational awareness when wearing hearing protection[4].  Additionally workers may not be fully aware of the negative effects of hazardous noise.

Within the U.S. Construction Sector, 44% of construction workers are frequently exposed to hazardous noise and about 31% of noise-exposed construction workers report not wearing hearing protection[5].  Overall, thirteen percent of all construction workers have hearing difficulty and 7% have tinnitus[6].  However, among noise-exposed construction workers, twenty-five percent have a material hearing impairment in at least one ear[7] and 16% have hearing impairment in both ears[8].  Moreover, between 2001 and 2010, 21% of construction workers incurred at least one significant hearing threshold shift[9].

[2] Masterson EA, Bushnell PT, Themann CL, Morata TC. Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:389–394. DOI:  

[3] Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Occupational Noise Exposure. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 26 October 2017]

[4] Tak S, Davis RR, Calvert GM. Exposure to hazardous workplace noise and use of hearing protection devices among US workers--NHANES, 1999-2004. Am J Ind Med. 2009 May;52(5):358-71. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20690. PubMed PMID: 19267354.

[5] Tak S, Davis RR, Calvert GM. Exposure to hazardous workplace noise and use of hearing protection devices among US workers--NHANES, 1999-2004. Am J Ind Med. 2009 May;52(5):358-71. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20690. PubMed PMID: 19267354.

[6] Masterson EA, Bushnell PT, Themann CL, Morata TC. Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:389–394. DOI:

[7] Masterson EA, Deddens JA, Themann CL, Bertke S, Calvert GM. Trends in Worker Hearing Loss by Industry Sector, 1981–2010. American journal of industrial medicine. 2015;58(4):392-401. doi:10.1002/ajim.22429.

[8] Masterson EA, Bushnell PT, Themann CL, Morata TC. Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:389–394. DOI:

[9] Masterson EA, Sweeney MH, Deddens JA, Themann CL, Wall DK. Prevalence of Workers with Shifts in Hearing by Industry: A Comparison of OSHA and NIOSH Hearing Shift Criteria. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2014;56(4):446-455. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000124.

How Risks are Reduced:

NIOSH’s “Hearing Loss Prevention Program” aims to reduce the prevalence of occupational hearing loss by raising awareness of best practices for the prevention of occupational hearing loss.  One key element of a successful program stresses the importance of buying quieter equipment. The NIOSH Buy Quiet Program plays a significant role in reducing noise hazards and protecting workers from dangerous noise levels. It must be noted that implementation of a Buy Quiet Program does not negate other requirements and best practices for protecting workers from noise, including providing adequate hearing protection and training in its proper use.

Effects on Productivity:

Buy Quiet is beneficial for any company whose workers are in danger of noise-induced hearing loss. Buying quieter power tools and equipment is oftentimes the least costly solution, considering the entire life cycle cost of tools, possible workers’ compensation claims, lifetime medical follow-up, costs associated with hearing conservation programs, lost productivity, and costs of hearing aids and other healthcare expenses. By conservative estimate, companies can save a substantial amount of money per decibel of noise reduction by buying quieter tools and equipment (Nelson D., 2011). It is entirely possible for the cost of the noise controls to be recouped through a reduction in other costs such as hearing-loss-related claims, improved productivity and improved communication.

The Buy Quiet Roadmap also provides a worksheet to estimate the long-term net value of using the Buy Quiet solution versus the anticipated cost of noise-induced hearing loss (visit


Sogand Hasanzadeh, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Behzad Esmaeili, Ph.D., George Mason University

Pouya Gholizadeh, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Hazards Addressed:

  • Carpentry
    • Build or install roof trusses
    • Construct forms for concrete footings and foundations
    • Construct suspended ceiling interior systems
    • Cut boards and panels
    • Fit and nail exterior walls and roof sheathing
    • Frame floors, walls, ceiling, stairs and roofs using wood and/or metal studs and door bucks
    • Install and finish wood flooring
    • Install cabinets, countertops and moldings
    • Install doors, windows and associated hardware
  • Drywall, Glass & Floor Coverings
    • Cut and install metal framing for windows and atriums
    • Cut boards and panels
  • Electrical
    • Cut, shape, place and install conduit and wire trays
    • Install and maintain electrical control systems
    • Install and maintain fixtures, lights, motors and pumps
    • Install interior wiring systems
  • Excavation & Demolition
    • Chip, break and recycle concrete
    • Clear and grub site
    • Deconstruct building foundations
    • Deconstruct superstructures
    • Drill rock and concrete and install tie backs
    • Excavate sites
    • Jackhammer concrete surfaces
    • Perform flame or plasma cutting
    • Rig, load and transport components debris
    • Secure and demolish damaged structures
  • General Labor
    • Compact earth
    • Construct and remove sidewalk forms
    • Install traffic control markers, barricades and maintain traffic patterns
    • Jackhammer rock and concrete surfaces
    • Operate concrete mixers, pumps and fire proofing sprayers
    • Operate earth boring machines
    • Operate pavement cutters and concrete grinders
    • Pave and patch concrete and asphalt
    • Perform manual demolition
  • Heavy Equipment
    • Compact earth
    • Construct and refurbish concrete and asphalt roadways
    • Demolish and recycle structures
    • Maintain heavy equipment
    • Operate earth-moving equipment
    • Operate stationary equipment
    • Operate transport equipment
    • Operate within traffic and work zones
    • Rig, load and transport materials and equipment
    • Survey sites for elevation and grade
  • Insulation & Lagging
    • Blow and place insulation
    • Install and apply fire stop products
    • Maintain and remove old insulation including asbestos
    • Spray fireproofing onto columns and beams
  • Masonry, Tile, Cement & Plaster
    • Chip, scrape and grind surfaces, or joints
    • Cut bricks, blocks, stone, concrete, tile or terrazzo
    • Drill holes and install reinforcing rods and anchors
    • Mix cement, mortar, plaster, or grout
    • Pour cement, mortar, plaster, or grout
  • Paints & Coatings
    • Perform abrasive blasting
    • Pressure wash, and use chemicals for surface prep and stripping
  • Pipes & Vessels
    • Assemble pipes, tubing and fittings
    • Assemble vessel structures and parts
    • Cut and drill holes in structures prior to pipe installation
    • Cut, thread, hammer and bend pipes and vessel tubes
    • Deburr and grind pipes and vessel tubes
    • Disassemble and remove damaged or worn pipe
    • Install pipe assemblies, fittings, valves, appliances and fixtures
    • Mount brackets and hangers on walls and ceilings to hold pipes
    • Weld, braze, solder, cut, or gouge pipe sections or vessel parts
  • Reinforced Concrete
    • Build traditional formwork and lay down decking
    • Cut or bend rebar
    • Drilling concrete
    • Finish concrete
    • Mix concrete
    • Perform surface grinding or cutting
    • Prepare and chip surfaces
  • Residential Construction
    • Clear and grade
    • Cut boards and panels
    • Install and finish flooring
    • Install cabinets, countertops and moldings
    • Install doors, windows, attic access and associated hardware
    • Install framing and roof trusses
    • Install roofing shingles or tiles
    • Install wood, metal or engineered floor and ceiling beams
    • Perform surface grinding or cutting
    • Pour, pump and vibrate concrete
  • Roofing
    • Cut tiles
    • Install asphalt roofs
    • Install roof sheathing
    • Install tile or shingle roofs
    • Remove old roofing materials
  • Sheet Metal & HVAC
    • Assemble fittings and fasten seams and joints using hand and power tools
    • Cut, file, grind, deburr, buff and smooth assembled parts
    • Install heating and air conditioning duct hangers and ductwork
    • Layout, shear, drill and punch holes in metal
    • Operate laser cutter and metal shearing machine
    • Operate metal press, hand brake and forming machines
    • Rig and set HVAC equipment with cranes, helicopters, hoists and lifts
    • Shape metal material over anvils, blocks or other forms
    • Weld, braze and solder seams and joints
  • Structural Steel
    • Build or erect false work
    • Dismantle or demolish metal structures
    • Drill, grind and saw materials
    • Erect and dismantle scaffolds
    • Erect stairways, curtain walls, wire rope railings
    • Fabricate metal structures in shop and field
    • Hoist and move members and components in shop
    • Install exterior skin
    • Load and unload material, members and components
    • Place and connect structural members
    • Rig and hoist structural members and machinery
    • Unload, assemble, jump and disassemble cranes
    • Weld, plasma cut, air-arc and flame cut metal


NIOSH Workplace Solutions Sheet
The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a series of “Workplace Solutions”, which are easy-to-understand recommendations from NIOSH research results. Related to this Construction Solution, please find more information on: Preventing Hazardous Noise and Hearing Loss During Project Design and Operation and Supporting Prevention through Design (PtD) Using Business Value Concepts

NIOSH Buy Quiet Information
To obtain information, visit overview and posters and infographics

Return on Investment

To calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your specific application, please visit our Return on Investment Calculator. While a specific ROI example has not been developed for this particular solution, the ROI Calculator provides a useful tool and guidance on how to generate your own on investment analysis.