Hearing Safety: An Overlooked Safety Concernjason
When you think of safety in the workplace, you might first consider potential hazards such as falling from heights, electrical shock, or even being struck by heavy equipment or machinery. However, many employers often overlook hearing safety, which is an equally serious issue. It is important to understand the hazards of extreme noise levels. Frequent exposure to high levels of noise does severe damage to the nerve endings in the inner ear. Loss of hearing limits your ability to hear high frequency sounds and comprehend speech. In some circumstances, prolonged exposure to loud occupational noise results in permanent hearing loss that cannot be reversed. If you ever experience ringing in your ears after leaving the jobsite, or if you find yourself having to shout to coworkers in close proximity, noise may be a problem in your workplace.
If that is the case, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the hazards from noise and conserve your hearing. Some relatively inexpensive ways to control noise include isolating the source of the noise or using a barrier, working with low-noise tools, and properly maintaining existing equipment. Hearing protection devices (HPDs) such as earmuffs or earplugs are also a simple but effective measure to protect your hearing. There are also certain changes that can be made in the workplace to help reduce noise exposure, such as limiting the amount of time a worker spends near a noise source. Providing a quiet area where workers’ can recuperate and keeping loud machinery at an acceptable distance are also simple solutions.
Hearing conservation programs are put in place to protect workers and help prevent occupational hearing loss. The program must be implemented if occupational noise exposure exceeds 85 dBA per 8 hours of exposure or when in the construction industry, if exposure surpasses 90 dBA per 8 hours of exposure. Through these programs, employees can be empowered with the necessary knowledge to keep themselves safe on the job. Employers are required to provide free yearly hearing exams, monitor noise levels, and equip workers with the proper protection and training.
To learn more about this topic, visit the OSHA compliance requirements.