How Loud is Too Loud?

From large machinery to power tools, industrial workplaces and construction sites are dangerously noisy environments. Loud conditions in many industries have been around for decades, and yet, some folks might not know about the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to noise.

One of the most essential things companies can do for employees working in loud environments is to prepare them. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), providing the right hearing protection and reducing noise levels can go a long way to avoiding noise-induced hearing loss. Simply put, it is essential for businesses to follow proper protocols and steer clear of liability with respect to loud noise.

Despite the serious nature of this hazard, many workers do not wear hearing protection in a loud environment.

The reasons behind the low usage rates of protective hearing equipment are twofold: a lack of knowledge surrounding mandatory worker access to protective gear, and a lack of knowledge of the health risks. The highest noise level that human ears can safely be exposed to for an extended period of time is 85 decibels, equal to the noise generated by heavy highway traffic. This degree of noise is not immediately painful, and therefore, some at-risk employees likely don’t think they need protection from it.

Ear Protection

Hearing will not come back after it has been damaged. Safeguarding the ability to hear of your employees is not just ethical and a legal necessity, it’s also good for productivity.

When a noise level is higher than 90 decibels over an eight-hour period of time, OSHA calls for the usage of ear plugs and ear muffs in combination, which optimizes hearing protection. Manufacturers must list the noise reduction rating on these devices and employers can look at these ratings to determine the proper combination to use.

It’s also crucial to regularly examine hearing protection devices. As time passes, wear and tear can lower efficacy. Ear muffs should be inspected to see that they fit firmly around the ears. Ear plugs should be checked for indications of failure.

Quiet Tools and Rooms

Another step is to use quiet tools and equipment where possible. Many equipment manufacturers now have quiet-operating or noise-reduced alternatives to conventional products, which function at a reduced noise level. When buying new tools or equipment, check to find out if a quiet-operating version is available.

When possible, isolate noisy equipment away from workers. Putting sound insulation can further buffer sound. If it is possible, have employees outdoors because it keeps loud sounds from echoing around a building.

Finally, various projects call for kinds of tools and equipment. As assignments and processes change, so should the measures you take to protect employees.

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