Loud sound in the workplace can sneak up on people causing hearing damage. 60% of workers are exposed to sound so loud, they could suffer occupational hearing loss.
Managers and employees should be award of the three kinds of dangerous sounds, continuous, intermittent and impulsive, and how to protect hearing from them with their PPE.
Companies can avoid occupational hearing loss for employees by reducing the noise levels, providing hearing protection and conducting annual hearing tests.
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Dan Clark: Hello again, it’s The Safety Brief. I’m Dan Clark. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.
You forgot your earplugs.
You forgot your earplugs.
60% of workers face some kind of hearing loss hazard at work, but this problem can be easily fixed with proper hearing protection. It’s not such a wild claim that loud sound will cause hearing damage. But let’s drill down and look at how sound can sneak up on you and cause damage.
Sound is measured in decibels and hearing damage can happen as low as 85 DB. Well, what does that mean?
** A normal conversation is about 55 DB
** A hairdryer, 70 DB
** A lawnmower—now we’re getting into potential hearing damage—90 DB
** The vuvuzela horn at a soccer match can be 108 DB
** A jet plane take off, 140 DB
At that threshold of 85 DB, the length of exposure impacts the damage. For example, at 88 DB it would take four hours to cause damage. At 98 DB, a half an hour. It increases quickly at a logarithmic rate.
I wear hearing protection when I mow the lawn. I don’t have a four-hour lawn job, but I still wear it.
There are three types of noise that can damage hearing.
1. Continuous. Now, this is the ongoing sound, a piece of machinery that runs constantly. People learn to tune these things out, which can be dangerous since they won’t realize they’re putting themselves at risk.
2. Intermittent sound. It occurs for a few seconds, every once in a while. An example: a power tool. People think that because the length of exposure short, they aren’t at risk. But a power saw is 110 DB, and that spike in sound can mean hearing damage.
3. Impulsive sound. This is a blast or loud explosion lasting for a second or less like nail guns or most firearms. They’re in the extreme range of sound above 100 DB where even short exposure can cause damage.
What can a boss, manager or company owner do?
1. Reduce the noise levels. There are new campaigns to isolate workers from machinery with sound walls around the machinery.
2. Provide hearing protection. Earplugs come in many designs that are cheap, but workers say the often block out too much sound and, in extreme sound cases, they may not provide enough protection. Earmuffs, some say, are more comfortable than earplugs and they can provide the most protection. Some advanced earmuffs can even amplify voices so employees can still hear each other. They are more expensive, though, and earmuffs do look a little goofy.
3. Conduct annual hearing tests. This demonstrates to employees that the company values hearing safety. It can also flush out who already has hearing damage so extra steps can be taken to prevent more damage.
Well, that’s all for this episode. When it comes to hearing keep your workers and yourself safe. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at creativesafetysupply.com
See this link about occupational hearing loss from the Centers for Disease Control.
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- OSHA Ear Protection Requirements (Standards for Hearing Safety)– creativesafetysupply.com
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration– creativesafetysupply.com