In today’s workforce, approximately 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise. 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 significant, permanent hearing loss.
At a neighbor’s barbecue recently, I met an older gentleman who talked about his recent retirement from a printing organization. He spent years running printing presses and maintaining large machines that pumped out millions of printed materials each week.
I was touring a printing plant not long ago and had a little trouble hearing our host over the sound of the large presses. I noticed that not all of the workers wore hearing protection… and I couldn’t help but cringe as two unprotected workers leaned in with faces almost touching to hear one another over repetitious blaring.
I’ve been to many manufacturing plants, construction sites and
bustling warehouses around the world. One thing that always
strikes me is the sound at these locations and the workers
that are exposed to those sounds every day. Sound can have
a lasting and profound impact on our hearing and the way we
work. So it should not be surprising that every year, 30 million
people in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise
where they work.
A successful hearing loss prevention program benefits both the company and the affected employee. Employees are spared disabling hearing impairments and evidence suggests that they may experience less fatigue and generally better health. Ultimately, the company benefits from reduced medical expenses and worker compensation costs. In some cases there may be improved morale and work efficiency.
Hearing protection is required if a worker is subject to noise above 85 decibels over an eight-hour period. If hearing protection is required, then a complete hearing loss prevention program should be instituted. We will discuss hearing loss prevention programs in our next blog.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States (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