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Use of Open Science in the development of an occupational safety measuring procedure


PTB is developing a measurement procedure to determine airborne ultrasound exposure at the workplace and is hereby pursuing an open-science strategy in order to make the research data and results freely available to the public. In this way, the development and testing of this procedure, which was designed for occupational safety and health, becomes transparent and comprehensible. Furthermore, it opens up new possibilities to create added value by re-using the datasets.


Within the scope of the EMPIR research project Ears II (05/2016 to 04/2019; [1]), which was funded by the European Union, the Institut für Arbeitsschutz (IFA) der Deutschen Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung (DGUV) (Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – IFA – of the German Social Accident Insurance – DGUV) and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) started to develop a measurement procedure for determining airborne ultrasound exposure at the workplace. This cooperation project aimed to develop a measurement procedure tailored to airborne ultrasound (i.e. sound with frequencies of 16 kHz and higher) for occupational safety. This procedure is to provide reliable measurement results fast and with as little effort as possible. The aim is to be able to determine, based on these results, the exposure of employees to airborne ultrasound with certainty.


To this end, numerous measurements were performed at a reference workstation [2], both at IFA's and at PTB's laboratories. The detailed investigations, which were carried out on an ultrasonic welding machine as a representative source of ultrasound for industrial applications, were used to gain insights into the structure of ultrasonic fields and to check the limitations of standardized measurement procedures which are used in the audible hearing range (i.e. sound with frequencies between 16 Hz and 16 kHz). For the test setup depicted in Figure 1, an artificial head was used in order to determine the influence employees have on the ultrasound field.


Figure 1: Reference workstation at PTB's laboratory, consisting of an ultrasonic welding machine and an artificial head in an anechoic environment

The measurement results have already been qualitatively analyzed. This analysis was used to draft a new measurement procedure for ultrasound. Currently, investigations on sound field structures are being carried out in the form of parameterizing. In the next development step, the measurement procedure is to be designed adaptively by describing the sound field structures by means of suitable parameters. This step is intended to make the procedure less time-consuming for the occupational safety official who applies it at the workplace.


The measurement procedure developed in this way has already been tested at selected workplaces in industry, where various ultrasonic modalities were used. The measurements carried out in industrial environments have provided important insights with regard to the suitability of the measurement procedure for practical use; they have also confirmed that the procedure is universally applicable at the workplaces where it was tested. It has been demonstrated that the staff trained to use the procedure are able to generate reproducible measurement results. This form of robustness is an important prerequisite for a standardized procedure for determining the exposure to airborne ultrasound at the workplace.


Large amounts of data were collected during the sound pressure level measurements performed either in the laboratory or at workplaces in industry, where they were carried out in part by trained staff with hand-held devices and in part by an automated, high-resolution, scanning measuring system. These research data were provided with the corresponding metadata and completed with calibration data about the associated measuring instruments. In the case of measurements at workplaces, the data were anonymized. The data sets thus processed and documented were uploaded to open-access repositories of different service providers and thus made freely accessible to the public [3], [4]. In this way, the research data has been archived and can be used by the public for any random purpose. Also, in this way, publication-related data are published. Each dataset was assigned a digital object identifier (DOI), so that it can be referenced clearly in the long term. By publishing project-related scientific articles right from the beginning as primary publications in open-access media, it is ensured that the research results obtained are comprehensible and can be verified by means of the published research data without access to these data being restricted. The research conducted in this way thus becomes more transparent, and scientific work gains in credibility.


This project has received funding from the EMPIR programme co-financed by the Participating States and from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


[1] EMPIR 15HLT02 Ears II – Metrology for modern hearing assessment and protecting public health from emerging noise sources. URL: Opens external link in new windowwww.ears-project.eu

[2] Schöneweiß, Robert; Kling, Christoph; Koch, Christian: Ein Labormesssystem zur Charakterisierung von Luftultraschallfeldern. In: Fortschritte der Akustik - DAGA 2019; 45. Deutsche Jahrestagung für Akustik, Rostock, 18.-21. März 2019; S. 751-752; Hrsg.: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Akustik e.V., Berlin 2019

[3] Wolff, Andrea; Ullisch-Nelken, Christian; Schöneweiß, Robert; Kling, Christoph; Kusserow, Heiko; Fletcher, Mark; Lineton Benjamin; Koch, Christian. (2019). Noise exposure at ultrasound-related industrial workplaces and public sites (Version 1.0.0) [Data set]. Zenodo. DOI: Opens external link in new window10.5281/zenodo.3163216

[4] Schöneweiß, Robert; Kling, Christoph; Koch, Christian. (2019). Datasets of high spatial resolution scans of the airborne ultrasound field of an ultrasonic welding machine either with or without an artificial head at a worker’s sedentary position (Version 1) [Data set]. Open Access Repository der Physikalisch-Technischen Bundesanstalt (PTB-OAR). DOI: Opens external link in new window10.7795/720.20190606



Robert Schöneweiß, FB 1.6, AG 1.62, E-Mail: Opens window for sending emailrobert.schoeneweiss@ptb.de