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Excessive Noise Exposure in the Workplace

Worried about noise exposure on the job?  Work is one of the most common places people will be exposed to harmful levels of noise. Consequently putting them at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and often progressive. Indeed it often takes years to develop. That’s why it’s so essential to protect employees hearing throughout their working years. 

OSHA requires employers to determine if employees are exposed to excessive noise levels. It is estimated that 30 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise. When employees are subjected to excessive noise levels, administrative or engineering controls must be used. The incidence of noise-induced hearing loss can be reduced or eliminated through the successful application of engineering controls and hearing conservation programs. Where controls are not sufficient, employers must implement an effective hearing conservation program.

Exposure to Noise is measured in units of sound pressure levels called decibels, using an A-weighted sound level (dBA). There are several ways to control and reduce workers’ excessive noise exposure in the workplace. Engineering controls involve modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker’s ear. Administrative controls are changes in the workplace or schedule that reduce or eliminate the worker’s exposure to noise.

Examples of inexpensive, effective Engineering Controls:

  • Choose low-noise tools and machinery
  • Maintain and lubricate machinery and equipment (e.g., oil bearings)
  • Place a barrier between the noise source and the employee (e.g., sound walls or curtains)
  • Enclose or isolate the noise source

Examples of Administrative Controls:

  • Operate noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed
  • Limit the amount of time a person spends at a noise source
  • Provide quiet areas where workers can gain relief from hazardous noise sources
  • Control noise exposure through distance is often effective (Specifically, for every doubling of the distance between the source of noise and the worker, the noise is decreased by 6 dBA.)

According to the  U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 14,500 work-related hearing loss illness cases in private industry, in 2019. Roughly 75 percent of those injuries occurred in the manufacturing industry. Including 2,000 cases in transportation equipment manufacturing and another 1,800 in food manufacturing, and 11,400 in fabricated metal product manufacturing.

Some other jobs carry a high risk for hearing loss, such as:

  • Airline ground maintenance
  • Construction
  • Farming
  • Jobs involving loud music or machinery
  • Military jobs that involve combat, aircraft noise, or other loud noise posts

In order to provide the proper hearing protection, employees must have a good knowledge and understanding of noise exposure as well as protective measures. Furthermore, companies must have a solid hearing conservation program in place. Our Hearing Conservation Training Course includes all the necessary materials for running a successful training class. It is ideal for new hire orientation. Additionally, seasoned employees would benefit from refresher training. This training is also important for environmental health & safety managers, manufacturing managers and supervisors, construction managers, and anyone who works in or manages employees in a noisy environment. Furthermore, this training is suitable for use to train the trainer.

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