Why Noise Protection is Important in the Workplace
Hearing loss not only impacts the quality of life of your workers, but your company’s profits and productivity too. The health of your employee’s hearing is an important safety issue that can easily be overlooked. Noises such as factory machinery, ringing phones, loud music or the chatter of colleagues can all affect your employee’s hearing.
In the U.S., hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work each year. Additionally, hearing loss disability results in an estimated $242 million in workers’ compensation payments.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits on how many decibels of noise workers can be exposed to. This measurement is a time-based weighted average (TWA) over an 8-hour day and requires noise exposure to be less than 85-decibels (dB).
However, if the noise level increases by five dB, the amount of time the worker can be exposed to the noise is reduced by 50%. The noise of a heavy truck is typically between 85-90 dB, while a jackhammer measures between 90-100 dB.
Watch for warning signs that noise in your workplace exceeds safe levels. General guidelines for warning signs include:
- If an employee hears ringing or humming at the end of their workday.
- If they cannot hear another employee at a conversational level from an arm’s length away.
- If they are experiencing temporary hearing loss at any point.
How can you better protect your workers?
- Use noise controls to shield workers from hazardous noise exposure.
- Engineer controls to isolate people from the noise hazard. This can include modifying or replacing equipment or making physical changes to the noise source.
- Use administrative controls to change the way people work.
- Supply hearing protection devices, such as ear muffs or earplugs.
- Implement a Hearing Conservation Program to prevent occupational hearing loss, protect your employee’s hearing, and provide your workers with the proper knowledge, training and protection devices.