Hear and Now: Noise Safety Challenge

noiseThe noise level at construction sites has serious and sometimes overlooked health and safety consequences. The bottom line of noise control in construction worksites is that permanent hearing loss is a reality.  Thousands of workers every year suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered permanent hearing loss.

Because of this potential long-term damage, exposing workers to a high level of noise over an extended period time is subject to the same type of oversight and fines as exposing workers to hazardous chemicals.

Recently, OSHA partnered with NIOSH to launch the first “Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge”  where three inventors were recognized for their ideas to reduce work-related hearing loss. The challenge was launched with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation.

“This event was an innovative way for government to help better protect workers from job-related hearing loss by connecting the entrepreneurial community with inventors developing solutions,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

There are legal limits to the amount and volume workers can be exposed. Over an eight-hour period, workers can be exposed to 90 decibels (dBA), and with every 5 decibel increase, the amount of time is cut in half.

The first step when considering a noise safety plan is to understand the difference between short-term  exposure to loud noise, which can cause a temporary change in hearing, and long-term exposure that can lead to permanent ringing and/or hearing loss–and then putting the proper safety measures in place.

Reducing the Decibel Level: What You Can Do

With the reduction of even a few decibels, the hazard to hearing is reduced. There are several ways to control and reduce worker exposure to noise in a workplace.

Foremost, safety officials would caution construction managers that hearing protection devices, such as earmuffs and plugs are considered an acceptable but less desirable option to control exposure to noise.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Operating noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed.
  • Limiting the amount of time a person spends at a noise source.
  • Providing quiet areas where workers can gain relief from hazardous noise sources.
  • Restricting worker presence to a suitable distance away from noisy equipment.

For more information, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

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