Importance of Hearing Protection in the Workplace

Posted by
Kathleen Krueger
on Apr 17, 2020

Hearing Protection

Are your workers protected from occupational hearing loss? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 22 million workers each year are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work. In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates 30 million workers are exposed to chemicals on the job, some of which can cause hearing loss. To protect workers and reduce injury claims, preventive hearing protection gear and safety guidelines should be followed. This is extremely important in workplaces with high noise exposure, the most common cause of occupational hearing loss and injury.

Occupational Noise Exposure Hazards

Loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage. This can include one-time exposure to extremely high decibel noises and longtime exposure to noisy conditions. Occupational noise exposure hazards are common, from noisy stadiums and entertainment venues to manufacturing and construction job sites. It is crucial that employers understand occupational noise exposure hazards and ways to protect their workers.

Hearing damage and loss can be caused by one-time and repeated exposure to loud noise, but it is important to know what level of noise can cause hearing injuries. For example, exposure to one gunshot or explosion are high enough in decibels to cause permanent hearing damage. Other loud noises can cause damage when workers are exposed for longer periods of time. The standard noise level considered hazardous for workers is 85 decibels (dBA) over eight hours, but higher decibel noises can cause hearing damage in less time. 100 dBA noises can cause damage in as little as 15 minutes.

How loud is 85 dBA? If you need to raise your voice to be heard by someone standing three feet away, the noise level is likely above 85 dBA. A large truck running within five feet of where you stand can emit 90 decibels. A motorcycle can reach 95 dBA or higher, while some tools or machinery can create noises 135 dBA or higher.

Occupational Hearing Protection for Workers

Protecting workers from hearing loss can be accomplished by reducing noise exposure hazards. NIOSH recommends controlling exposure to high noise levels to protect workers from hearing loss injuries. This method is called hierarchy of controls, which includes protective measures from most to least effective:

  • Emlimination- removal of the noise hazard
  • Substitution- replace the noise hazard
  • Engineering controls- isolate the noise hazard or workers
  • Administrative controls- change the way workers perform the job
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)- use of protective gear or PPE by workers
Hearing protection for workers comes in a variety of forms. Removing loud equipment or replacing with quieter equipment are the best and most effective methods. Finding ways to insulate noisy tools or equipment away from workers can have a dramatic impact on safety. Erecting barriers between equipment and workers can muffle noise and prevent hearing injuries. Maintaining equipment can also minimize operation noise. As a final protection, the use of PPE like earplugs and earmuffs by workers in noisy environments are recommended by OSHA and other workplace safety and worker protection agencies.

Worker Safety and Hearing Protection Management

Finding the right solutions to improve safety, including hearing protection for employers and their workers, are our top priorities. SafetyPro Resources offers safety management services, including safety auditing, employee training and custom safety management for all types of businesses in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast area. Call us at 800.941.0714 or reach out to us online to schedule a safety management consultation.
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Tags: Hearing Conservation, Workplace safety

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