As part of a comprehensive health and safety program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers provide workers with hearing protection.
Excess noise in the workplace may cause workers to develop hearing problems, and prolonged exposure to occupational noise may result in permanent damage. Businesses may want to make sure workers are equipped with workplace safety resources like ear muffs and other hearing protection devices that are essential to limit common noise exposures.
OSHA estimates 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace. Both short- and long-term noise exposure may result in hearing damage or hearing loss. Health effects include a temporary change in hearing and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
Sources of noise exposure
Employers may want to be cautious about the noise levels of occupational noise, including handsaws, bulldozers and diesel trucks, according to an infographic by Honeywell on EHS Today.
OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) for noise is 90 A-weighted sound levels (dbA) for all workers during an eight-hour day. Workers, however, may be exposed to noises that exceed this limit. For instance, the sounds from table saws are 93 decibels (dB).
Employers may want to make sure they are complying with OSHA’s standard for even higher levels as workers are limited to two hours of exposure for noise that generates sounds reaching 100 dbA sound levels. Even when workers are exposed to noise for a short period of time, they are at risk for hearing damage, according to OSHA.
Concern about hazards of occupational noise
Although workers in an EPIC Hearing and Healthcare study said they believed their job exposed them to noise, fewer than 1 in 4 made an effort to check their hearing. Others admitted to declining treatment, saying they were concerned about employer perceptions.
“Some employees, especially older ones, still view hearing loss negatively and resist treatment, such as wearing hearing aids, as a sign of aging,” according to Brad Volkmer, president and CEO of EPIC Hearing Healthcare.
While employees are worried about what their employer might think about hearing loss, the survey showed employers are willing to offer support for employees seeking treatment for hearing loss. Businesses may consider tailoring their benefits administration to ensure workers get their hearing checked regularly. Employers also may want to offer workers health benefits that provide discounts for hearing aids that may enhance their ability to hear and increase workplace productivity.
Choose hearing protection to limit exposure
Businesses also may invest in personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid hearing loss. To protect workers from hearing loss and damage, companies may want to educate their workers on the types of hearing protection available.
Founded in 1925, CopperPoint Insurance Companies is a leading provider of workers’ compensation and commercial insurance solutions operating in six southwestern states. To learn more about our insurance products and find resources to better manage your risks, explore our website or contact your independent insurance agent.