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The Effects of Noise in the Workplace - on Employees and your Profit

Julie Copeland

Posted by
CEO

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States Hearing Protection(especially in the manufacturing sector).  Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, and an additional 9 million exposed to ototoxic chemicals. An estimated $242 million is spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability

The table below demonstrates that 1 in 4 workers (25%) will become hearing impaired at noise exposures to 90 dBA.  By comparison, 1 in 12 workers (8%) are at risk of becoming hearing impaired at exposures to 85 dBA.  The risk does not approach zero until exposures approximate 80 dBA. 

Table 1.  Comparison of models for estimating the excess risk of hearing impairment at age 60 after a 40-year working lifetime of exposure to occupational noise (exchange rate in parentheses)

 

.5-1-2 kHz Definition

1-2-3 kHz Definition

1-2-3-4 kHz Definition

Average Exposure Level (dBA)

1971-
ISO
(3)

1972-NIOSH
(5)

1973-EPA
(3)

1990-ISO
(3)

1997-NIOSH
(3)

1972-NIOSH
(5)

1990-ISO
(3)

1997-NIOSH
(3)

1990-
ISO
(3)

1997-NIOSH
(3)

90

21

29

22

3

23

29

14

32

17

25

85

10

15

12

1

10

16

4

14

6

8

80

0

3

5

0

4

3

0

5

1

1

Source: Chapter 2, “Basis for the Exposure Standard", Criteria for a Recommended Standard:  Occupational Noise Exposure – Revised Criteria, 1998

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable but once acquired, hearing loss is permanent and irreversible. Therefore, prevention measures must be taken by employers and workers to ensure the protection of workers' hearing.

NIOSH recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace whenever possible and using hearing protectors in those situations where dangerous noise exposures have not yet been controlled or eliminated.

Reducing the amount of noise at the source can be more cost effective and safer for employees than providing protective equipment for everyone.  That being said – those situations where noise exposures are above 85 decibels over an eight-hour period require proper hearing protection and regular hearing tests performed by trained professionals.

According to OSHA you are required to provide your employees with a choice between earplugs and earmuffs and help them choose which would be the best fit depending on their personal work environment.  Arbill can arrange to do a hearing audit of your organization and can recommend the proper PPE necessary to help save your employee’s hearing and you money.  Contact your Arbill representative to set up your audit today.

We hope that you are finding this information helpful.  Please feel free to forward these blogs to your colleagues and friends so that we can get closer to our goal of ensuring that your business operates at its fullest and safest potential while sending every single worker home safe every day.  Visit arbill.com for more information.  Our safety blog is published 3 times each week – come back often or subscribe here.

Topics: Arbill, hearing protection, noise levels at work, PPE, safe every day, hearing audit, noise-induced hearing loss

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