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What Does Ultrasound Mean?

Ultrasounds are sound waves that have frequencies higher than the upper audible limit of human hearing.

Ultrasound waves, also referred to as ultrasonics or ultrasonic radiation, are used in a variety of industries, such as diagnostic medicine and industrial cleaning.

Safeopedia Explains Ultrasound

Ultrasound is used within an occupational safety capacity to perform ultrasonic non-destructive testing (NDT or UT) of the structural integrity of industrial materials. Occupational health agencies and industry associations provide occupational exposure limits for workers who are exposed to airborne ultrasonic sound in the workplace. Use of ultrasound devices in some fields may place workers at risk of suffering ergonomic-related health and safety issues. OSHA notes that medical ultrasound technicians are at-risk of suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Ultrasound technologies are used in industrial cleaning, soldering, welding, chemical extractions, degassing, and electroplating. Additionally, ultrasonic NDT is used for safety-related industrial applications to detect flaws in steel beams, pipelines and chemical tanks, structural welds, and many other applications. A major use of ultrasonic NDT is measurement of the wall thickness of pipes and tanks that are used to carry, or are otherwise exposed to, substances that cause corrosion over time.

Occupational exposure limits to airborne ultrasound are provided in decibels (dB) and vary by frequency. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends an exposure limit of 105dB at 10kHz and 115dB at 50kHz (ceiling value). The differences in recommended exposure limits vary greatly by country and by organization due to differing interpretations of available data.

Because ultrasound is frequently used in industrial applications, workers may also face a potential risk of accidental direct contact exposure to industrial ultrasonics. Documentation of the effects of direct contact exposure is limited; however, anecdotal documentation describes localized burns occurring within a fraction of a second of exposure.


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