Workplace safety is a major concern to large and small business owners throughout the country. As a small business owner you understand the importance of providing your employees a safe working environment. It’s important for small business owners to make every effort to become aware of noise pollution in the workplace and then to minimize it. Taking action now greatly reduces risks of hearing loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 million U.S. workers experiences exposure to potentially harmful noise levels at work. Nine million more U.S. workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, thereby increasing the likelihood of hearing loss for those employees.
The problem with hearing loss resulting from noise pollution is that it often occurs gradually over long periods of time and exposure, and is not often noticed in the early stages. To further exacerbate the problem of pinpointing exactly when and where the damage is occurring, most people don’t feel any pain or physical symptoms associated with the damage.
The damage and degree of damage varies greatly according to the type of sound, the volume of the sound, and the degree of exposure. Sudden loud noises, like gunshots and explosives, may cause immediate damage to hearing. Damage from other noises, such as background noises or high-pitched frequencies, is not as obvious.
Mitigating Noise Pollution in the Workplace
Preventing noise pollution related hearing problems is the best cure you can give your employees. In some industries, the challenge is greater, but there is almost always something you can change that will reduce the risk of permanent hearing loss. These are a few great examples.
- Create policies about noise in the office. While air conditioners humming in the background is not something you can comfortably eliminate, employee radios playing eight-hours a day is something you can eliminate through policy changes.
- Educate employees about risks related to noise pollution and hearing loss. Employees are more likely to take proactive steps to protect their hearing if they are fully aware of the risks.
- Use soundproofing insulation in areas where loud noises take place. Machine shops and HVAC rooms often produce quite a bit of noise pollution. Use proper soundproofing equipment and insulation to prevent that noise from becoming a problem for other employees and make sure people working in those areas where proper protective gear.
- Provide protective gear for employees at greatest risk of hearing loss due to noise pollution. Also consider rotating employees so that they aren’t facing maximum exposure to damaging noises for the full eight hours of their shift.
- Conduct regular screenings for signs of hearing loss. Catching hearing loss early can help prevent further loss — especially when immediate action is taken to transfer the employee to a department where he or she is less likely to suffer from the effects of noise pollution.
Despite your best efforts to protect your employees and prevent hearing loss from noise pollution, there are times when it does happen. That is why it’s so important to have workers’ compensation insurance for your employees to protect your business as well as your employees.