Workers every day are exposed to noise levels at work that are so high they are rated hazardous. In the last decade, over 120,000 people have developed permanent hearing loss, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Frustratingly, hearing loss is one the most preventable of all workplace injuries. With the proper protective gear, a person’s delicate ear mechanism can be protected from high sound levels.
Businesses owners need to protect their workers with the proper gear and make sure they keep sound levels as low as possible. They also need to protect themselves from liability issues by carrying worker’s compensation insurance in case an injury does occur.
Noise and Its Causes
There are a wide array of noise sources that are potentially hazardous. These include:
- Heavy machinery
- Construction equipment
- Lawn mowers and weed whackers
- Steam generation
- Vehicles used in agriculture and industry
The rules set down by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, are that if the sound level is over 85 decibels, workers need to wear a hearing protector. At the same time, if areas where sound levels are this high, the organization needs to institute a hearing conservation program.
Type of Hearing Protectors
There are three main categories of protectors. Here is a look at when each is useful.
Ear muffs: These enclose the external ear area completely and fit close against the head. The foam inside the muffs helps reduce noise levels by 15 to 30 decibels. When used with earplugs, they can protect workers from very high sound levels, up to 105 decibels.
Earplugs: These are pre-formed in various sizes to fit ear canals of different width. Both formable and foam earplugs expands in the ear canal, sealing it.
Canal caps: These cap off the ear canal at the opening, which provides less protection than either muffs or plugs. They aren’t recommended in industry experts.
The type of ear protection you choose depends on the job and noise level. There are three features you need to look out for:
- Good seal: the better the seal, the more thoroughly you block out sound. If there is air leakage, it lets sound bypass the gear and get into the ear. That is why it is essential that the protective method you use provides a proper fit in the ear or over it.
- Comfort: workers use gear that is convenient to use and comfortable to wear. Make sure the device you choose is easy to place and to remove.
- Communication: hearing protective gear makes it hard to have a conversation. One thing to consider is that earmuffs are easy to life up in order to hear what one person is saying to another.
Take the time to assess the noise levels at your worksite. Buy the right gear to save workers’ hearing and to protect yourself from liability. Be sure that your employees and your company are protected with workers’ compensation insurance.