Limited opportunities for students to enter acoustic engineering profession

12th October 2012 By: Zandile Mavuso - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

Alack of opportunity to enter the acoustics engineering profession through higher education institu- tions in South Africa has resulted in training being provided exclusively, but for a very limited intake, through mentorship opportunities, states acoustics engineering firm Mackenzie Hoy Consulting Acoustics Engineers.

“Bad acoustics are pervasive in South Africa and the development of proper learning structures for acoustic engineering could be beneficial to shopping malls, auditoriums and airports.

“There is also a vast need for improved working conditions on mines and for the improvement of milling techniques through the use of an acoustic camera to identify optimum feed rates for rotary ball and rod crushers.

“Currently, acoustic engineering is ignored by industry; however, in factories where we have reduced the noise levels to below 85 dBA, workers do not need earmuffs and the quality of production has improved,” says Mackenzie Hoy Consulting Acoustics Engineers principal engineer Terry Mackenzie-Hoy.

He further points out that acoustics form an integral part of industrial and commercial building design in other countries.

“It seems that none of this is considered as necessary by industry in South Africa and there is no simple solution to the problem without improved Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and national noise-control regulations,” he states.

Although there are national noise- control regulations, these have not been promulgated.

Further, Mackenzie-Hoy notes that the OHSA contains pages of requirements for lighting in work areas but only one paragraph that stipulates the noise requirements.

In terms of the Act, owners of indus- trial premises must firstly use engineering strategies to reduce the noise levels to below 85 dBA. If this fails, the specific area where there is excessive noise must be barricaded. If this is not possible, employees must be issued with ear defenders.

He says government could easily have experts draft changes to the OHSA.

“This could be done through the Department of Labour as an amendment to the noise-control regulations dealing with hearing loss. [We can] use the existing UK regulations as our guideline to structure domestic regulations,” Mackenzie-Hoy explains.

He also points out that South African tertiary institutions can introduce noise-control qualifications, while manufacturers could produce a booklet to provide architects and developers with information on the value of acoustic engineering and building design.

Some advances, namely the Green Star SA noise requirements for buildings, are being made. The rating method used by the Green Building Council of South Africa shows how environmentally efficient a building can be designed. However, this is an optional extra and is not applied rigorously throughout industry, he concludes.