The human auditory system is a remarkable and delicate mechanism that enables us to perceive and interpret sounds. When exposed to excessive or prolonged loud noise, our hearing can suffer irreversible damage.
This issue is particularly relevant in occupational settings where workers are exposed to high levels of noise on a regular basis.
- Construction Workers: Construction sites often involve the use of heavy machinery, power tools, and equipment that generate high levels of noise.
- Airport Ground Crew: Workers on airport tarmacs and runways are exposed to excessive noise from aircraft engines, ground support equipment, and other operations.
- Music Industry Professionals: Musicians, sound technicians, and concert production staff can experience prolonged exposure to high levels of noise during rehearsals, performances, and sound-checks.
- Shipyard Workers: Employees involved in shipbuilding, repairs, or maritime activities may encounter excessive noise from engines, heavy machinery, and various shipyard operations.
- Entertainment Venue Staff: Workers in nightclubs, bars, stadiums, and concert venues can be exposed to high noise levels from music, crowds, amplification systems, and live performances.
It’s important to note that these occupations represent a range of industries and job roles with potential exposure to excessive noise, but there may be other occupations not listed here that can also pose a risk of noise-related hazards.
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB) is considered hazardous and requires preventative measures.
In their publication titled “Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention,” NIOSH emphasizes that repeated exposure to high noise levels damages the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to sensorineural hearing loss.
This type of hearing loss is irreversible and can result in difficulty understanding speech, reduced job performance, and decreased quality of life.
NIOSH recommends implementing engineering controls, such as sound barriers and enclosures, as well as providing workers with hearing protection devices to minimize noise exposure.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing safety and health regulations in the workplace. OSHA sets permissible exposure limits (PELs) for various hazardous substances, including noise. According to OSHA, the permissible exposure limit for noise is 90 dB averaged over an 8-hour work shift.
OSHA recommends employers to implement a hearing conservation program which typically includes noise monitoring, engineering controls, hearing protection, training, and regular hearing tests for workers.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), around 16% of disabling hearing loss worldwide is attributable to occupational noise exposure. They highlight that exposure to noise levels above 85 dB can cause immediate and long-term damage to hearing. WHO recommends reducing noise exposure levels through engineering controls, adopting quieter technologies, and implementing administrative measures like job rotation and work breaks.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Use Effective Hearing Protection:
- Employ suitable hearing protection devices, such as earmuffs or earplugs, to reduce exposure to high-level noise that are specifically designed for your work environment and provide adequate noise reduction.
- Ensure that the devices fit properly and are worn consistently in noisy areas.
- Regularly inspect and replace them if they become damaged or worn out.
- Adhere to proper usage guidelines
Implement Engineering Controls :
- Advocate for the implementation of engineering controls to reduce noise levels at the source.
- Work with your employer to identify and implement effective measures such as sound barriers, acoustic enclosures, or mufflers for noisy equipment.
- Encourage regular maintenance and lubrication of machinery to minimize noise emissions.
By addressing the root cause of excessive noise, you can reduce reliance on personal protective equipment and create a safer work environment for everyone.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) all stress the importance of preventing occupational noise exposure and implementing appropriate control measures.
To protect workers’ hearing, it is crucial for employers to assess and mitigate noise hazards in the workplace.
This may involve implementing engineering controls, providing them with hearing protection devices, establishing hearing conservation programs, and conducting regular monitoring and testing.
By prioritizing hearing health and safety, both employers and employees can ensure a healthier and more productive workforce. If you feel you are at risk and need to get a hearing assessment or further information do not hesitate to give us a call.
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