According to an article published on AudiologyOnline, written by workplace noise expert Richard Neitzel, M.S., CIH, Research Scientist at the University of Washington, construction workers experience hearing loss due to long-term exposure to noise on construction sites.
The author points to numerous causes of the problem:
- a lack of hearing protection required by law
- the transient nature of construction workers who don't "settle down" long enough to connect with a hearing specialist
- various standards of acceptable noise levels by government agencies
- the loudness and consistency of sound within the construction site area
- difficulty in collecting data because of the transient nature of the work
- lack of noise controls on equipment
- lack of hearing health training on the job
- lack of understanding of the dangers of long-term exposure to noise by industry management and on-site managers.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
Like most body parts, over time, bits and pieces wear out from overuse, over-exposure and the natural aging process. This is especially true of our ability to hear. Hearing loss, caused by exposure to loud noises, is a growing problem despite government regulation and employee training according to Mr. Neitzel's report.
The Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) has determined safe noise levels and has made recommendations that specific hearing protection devices be worn within sound levels of 85dB.
On-Site Safety Oversight
There are a number of steps that can be taken at the on-site administrative level, according to Mr. Neitzel. These include:
- Placing loud equipment further from site workers.
- Posting signs warning of high noise levels.
- Rotating workers out of loud jobs on a regular basis.
- Providing breaks from loud noise even if protective gear is worn.
- On-site training of construction workers.
- Managerial enforcement of existing company and government regulations.
The Solutions Already Exist
Wear protective hearing devices whenever exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, whether you're pouring cement or laying asphalt. Be pro-active. And, if you're the company's owner, OSHA's regulations require appropriate protection against hearing loss and the penalties for non-compliance are a lot more expensive than investing in the health of your work force.
NIHL can be prevented. At a construction site. At a rock concert. Wherever you may be and there is excessive noise, wear hearing protection. It is as simple as that.
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