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Another Easy Safety Initiative Protect Against Hearing Damage

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the easiest safety initiative involving providing eye protection for your employees. Readers responded asking about hearing damage protection on the shop floor.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Occupational Hearing Loss publishes some basic occupational facts:

CDC Occupational Hearing Damage Facts:

  • Four million workers go to work daily exposed to damaging noise.
  • Ten million people in the US have noise-related hearing loss.
  • Twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise each year.
  • While no comprehensive data on US economic impact exists, Washington State workers disability settlements cost $4.8 million in 1991 and did not include medical costs.

These statistics are startling, but it’s easy to understand that hearing loss is a hidden hazard that no national regulatory agency is measuring. It is a hidden hazard whose damage happens slowly through prolonged exposure.

Measuring specific damaging noise levels is complex, and varies with sound frequency and other factors including exposure time. Comprehensive regulatory information for workplace noise level risks can be found on the OSHA website. It provides clear information on assessing damaging levels across exposure time.

How can you prevent this hazard in your workplace? Management should be obvious in setting an example (like for eye protection), of course. And, there are others:

  1. Test the sound levels at various locations in the workplace. Awareness of where and when damaging continuous and percussion noise exists is the first step.
  2. Reduce machine and environment noise by eliminating it (replace or repair damaged or worn machines creating noise beyond their initial operating specification).
  3. Muffle noise from machines using the manufacturer’s sound suppression options for reducing the machine’s noise, or implementing after-market solutions.
  4. If unable to reduce the noise level, or in addition to reducing noise levels, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests workers be given hearing protection when exposed to damaging noise. This means making ear plugs or ear muffs available.

The cost-savings results for your workforce can be profound. For example, through the US Army’s hearing conservation program, they saved $504.3 million through safety initiatives to reduce hearing lost in combat personnel exposed to combat arms between 1974 and 1994. Subsequent multi-hundred million in savings also occurred as a result of measures for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and more (see CDC link above).

Call Barton Staffing Solutions’ full-time safety manager to learn more about safety in the workplace, and specifically controlling environmental noise levels and providing workers protection from damaging noise that can prevent hearing loss and productivity losses and workers compensation costs.