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Why Your Noise Protection Measures May Not Be Enough

Posted by EHS Insight Staff on August 11, 2016 at 3:13 PM

Hearing loss is a serious consequence of improper noise protection at work. If you're not following industry standards, you may be putting your workers at risk of hearing loss. 

Did you know that four million people have jobs where noise is a damaging presence every single day? As a result, there are ten million people in the United States whose hearing has been damaged due to noise. Not only that, but hearing loss is the most commonly reported illness in the U.S. manufacturing industry. How many of those cases do you think were preventable?

Here's What the Noise Protection Experts Say

Hearing loss occurs two ways: from the aging process and from excessive noise. A constantly noisy workplace can damage hearing, which is why OSHA has issued guidelines for noise levels in the workplace.

The guidelines are based on scientific evidence that yes: hearing loss is indeed preventable, by instilling the right noise protection measures.

But here's the rub: both OSHA and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) maintain acceptable decibel levels for noise at work, but they differ in what's okay for workers.

  • OSHA: decibel level for an eight-hour day should not exceed 90 dB
  • NIOSH: decibel level for an eight-hour day should not exceed 85 dB

As you can see, the OSHA standards allow for tolerance of more workplace noise. NIOSH recommends an even lower level of occupational noise, thereby recommending even more stringent noise protection measures.

"Strive for excellence in the program rather than just meeting minimal requirements."

-John Franks, Mark Stephenson, Carol Merry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

What Should You Do?

In a white paper on hearing loss prevention, public health experts John Franks, Mark Stephenson and Carol Merry discuss the importance of management's involvement in developing an effective hearing loss prevention program. "It has become clear over recent years that the level of commitment displayed by management is directly related to the overall effectiveness of the hearing loss prevention program," they noted.

You always want to make sure there is transparency between you and your department heads. Never hesitate to notify your management team in the event decibel levels exceed industry standards. 

Topics: EHS Management, Workplace Health and Safety, OSHA, Compliance, Regulatory Information

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