DID YOU HEAR THAT?
Many people have experienced personally or know someone who has Noise-Induced-Hearing-Loss. NIHL is the most common permanent and preventable occupational injury in the world. Construction sites have many noisy operations and can be a significant source of noise exposure.
October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. Let’s take the time to proactively address and look to prevent hearing loss. It can be prevented, but once you suffer from NIHL it cannot be reversed or cured.
Signs of Hearing Loss
- Hard time hearing when there is background noise
- You ask people to repeat what they say
- Trouble understanding people on the phone
- Ringing or noises in one or both ears
- Trouble hearing back-up alarms or telephones ringing
How Does It Happen
Repeated exposure over time to very high noise levels, such as a nail gun on a jobsite will slowly, but permanently cause hearing loss. It’s sometimes referred to as a “stealth long-term hazard” because it is painless and gradual. Below are a few other scenarios for how hearing loss is happening on the jobsite.
- According to W.H.O., an estimated 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12 – 35 years) worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices, which means they will enter the workforce with existing hearing loss.
- Work conditions can be dynamic and unpredictable making it difficult to calculate the risk at the individual worker level.
- Employee objections to wearing PPE: “I’m used to the noise”, “It’s uncomfortable”, “I forget”…Blocking out all noise is not always the answer. There are HPDs (Hearing Protection Devices) that provide many different levels of attenuation from earmuffs that offer a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) 20 to earplugs that offer an NRR33. There are also many styles to choose from that are compatible with other PPE and multiple dispense options to make it readily available.
Of Workers in Construction Have Been Exposed to Hazardous Noise
Of Noise-Exposed Construction Workers Who Have Material Hearing Impairment
Of Construction Workers Exposed to Noise NOT Wearing Hearing Protection
Of Construction Workers Have Hearing Difficulty
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT NIHL ON YOUR JOBSITE
OSHA recommends workplace noise levels be kept below 85 dBA over a time-weighted average (TWA) of 8 hours. As noise levels increase, so does the damage to your hearing and it occurs more quickly.
You can use the 2 – 3 foot rule. Stand 2 – 3 feet away from a co-worker. If you have to raise your voice to talk, you should assume noise levels are above 85 dBA. There are also many Smart Device app’s today that provide a “grab sample” of noise levels, which can serve as a good reference point to whether you’re being exposed to noise above 85 dB.
In following the hierarchy of safety controls, assuming that excessive noise pollution, has already been engineered out via environmental controls or other methods, hearing protection PPE and on-the-job trainings are the best steps to protecting your workers against noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
KEY STEPS TO PREVENT HEARING LOSS
Perform audiometric testing in your facility to identify problematic areas or processes where employees are potentially exposed to an 8-hour TWA greater than 85 dB as allowed by OSHA.
is critical to support employee knowledge and motivation. Understand what works best for them helps personalize the experience.
Schedule An Ongoing Audit
Of your hearing conservation program and measure employees who are required to wear hearing protection as part of the program to ensure they are having a shift (loss) of hearing.
Work With Distributors
To identify and select PPE that features technological improvements like foam quality, adjustability, and is the proper NRR given the findings of the audiometric testing in your facility. Both can help provide lasting comfort.
Research New Methods
To personalize hearing loss prevention.
Smart hearing solutions are being introduced to the industrial market that encourage a change in worker behavior. This can mean identifying individuals most likely at risk of NIHL, sharing insights with them about their behavior, and designing personalized hearing conservation programs to meet their needs. Smart hearing solutions provide personal noise exposure monitoring to EHS directors and supervisors allowing them to see what their employees are hearing and improve safety regulations compliance.
Ready to understand noise levels on your jobsite? Fill out the form and a Fastenal certified safety specialist will be in touch.