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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in occupational hearing loss

The workplace is one of the most common places people will be exposed to harmful levels of noise, putting them at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is permanent and often progressive. If your company performs manufacturing, construction or mining activities, noise is going to be an issue that needs to be addressed.

According to OSHA’s standards, employers must implement a hearing conservation program “when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).” These programs “strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves.”

A hearing conservation program should include employers developing and carrying out plans that reduce noise in the work environment and providing equipment and materials that help workers protect themselves. Some things to keep in mind while developing a hearing conservation program include:
• Measurement of sound levels in the workplace
• Reducing noise through both engineering controls (making changes to equipment or the surrounding area) and administrative controls (making adjustments to the work schedule or workplace)
• Yearly training programs about hearing protection, as well as informing new employees of noise-induced hearing loss and other risks that occur due to noise exposure
• Within six months of employment, employees who are exposed to loud noises should be given a free baseline audiogram – and then a yearly free audiogram to compare any hearing issues
• Provide a variety of hearing protection options to those employees exposed to hearing hazards, including lower-noise power tools and ear protection, such as earplugs and earmuffs
• Records kept of employees’ varying noise exposure levels

The cost impact of a hearing conservation program can be minimized with an accurate noise survey. At Workplace Safety & Health Inc, we use top quality sound level meters and noise dosimeters to help you identify only those employees that need to be included in the program and determine if the initial cost of engineering controls is a sound investment over the on-going costs of a hearing conservation program management. We have the expertise to help you make sound decisions for noise measurement and control – 317-253-9737.

Occupational hearing loss (OHL) is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States with about 22 million workers exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, 10 million exposed to solvents, and an unknown number exposed to other ototoxicants that can lead to OHL. According to the National Institute for Occupational and Safety Health (NIOSH), noise is considered loud (hazardous) when it reaches 85 decibels or higher or if someone has to raise his/her voice to speak with someone 3 feet away (arm’s length). Ototoxic chemical exposure includes such chemicals as organic solvents (styrene, trichloroethylene and such mixtures), heavy metals (mercury, lead, trimethyltin), asphyxiants (carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide), and pesticides.

NIOSH has always considered hearing loss prevention as one of its top priorities as OHL is permanent, but also nearly always preventable. The best solution to dangerous noise levels in the workplace is to reduce the source of the noise, if feasible. One NIOSH initiative is to encourage companies to “Buy Quiet,” meaning to develop a plan to take noise levels into consideration when making purchasing decisions.

If this is not technically feasible, workers must use hearing protection devices (HPDs), which when properly selected and correctly worn, these devices will minimize the chance of developing a hearing loss. When considering hearing loss due to ototoxicants, it has been shown that some of these chemicals can cause hearing loss in conjunction with noise levels, but some can cause hearing loss without simultaneous excessive noise exposure.

Virtually all companies that perform manufacturing, construction, or mining activities create noise, so the first step to protecting your employees’ hearing is to establish a hearing conservation program. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. can help your business establish such a program, which would include provisions for noise measurement, engineering and/or administrative control of noise, audiometric (individual employee hearing) testing and provision of hearing protectors.

Noise exposure crosses all industries and affects many workers, and many workers are unaware that their hearing loss may be an OHL, and in most cases, happens gradually. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. is ready to help you protect your employees’ hearing. Contact us at 317-253-9737.

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