If your work environment is loud, noise-induced hearing loss is a possibility. Companies across the country are striving to limit these risks by providing employees with suitable amounts of protection and working to reduce high decibel levels.
One OSHA report shows organizations have had to pay out around $1.5 million in damages for failing to provide sufficient noise protection equipment to their staff. Workers’ compensation claims focused on hearing loss also come in about $250 million each year, showing just how costly neglecting noise levels can be for businesses.
How Much Noise Is Too Much?
When sound intensity is measured, it is done in decibels (dBA). The unprotected ear can only tolerate extended exposure to noise that is at 85 decibels or lower. Once you cross the 85 dBA threshold, permanent hearing loss can occur.
However, many workers aren’t required to wear hearing protection when in noisy environments or when they are around loud equipment. In some cases, companies mandate protection should be used, but fail to provide sufficient options. In others, the businesses don’t properly enforce procedures.
At times, the issue is an underestimation of the sound intensity associated with specific equipment. For example, some would be surprised to hear that a nail gun can emit sounds reaching 100 dBA, and being exposed to one for just 30 minutes could result in permanent damage.
What Can Companies Do to Protect Workers?
First and foremost, companies need to educate their staff regarding the risks associated with noise exposure and the potential for hearing loss. Let your employees know which pieces of equipment can cause damage and how quickly it can occur.
Next, develop procedures and protocols for both operating and being in the vicinity of noisy equipment. Include clear guidelines that list which equipment must be worn and when, ensuring everyone understands the requirements for every scenario.
Then, make protective gear highly accessible to your staff. Make sure all of the options are readily available and that all provided equipment is in good repair and working order. Ideally, you want more than you need on hand. That way, as pieces breakdown, you have replacements at the ready and can order new equipment to keep your supply up.
Finally, create a noise-monitoring program that can keep tabs on your environment and your employees. Track the decibels when multiple pieces of equipment are in use in one area or whenever a new piece of equipment is added to the environment, even as a replacement for something that was already available. If your reports show that adjustments to the protection procedures are necessary, make them as quickly as possible and distribute the information to your staff.
It’s important to remember that, once an employee suffers hearing loss, those changes are permanent. By taking action today, you can help keep your workers safe, ensuring they don’t enter into or work in noisy environments unprotected.
If you would like to learn more about protecting your employees, the team at The Advance Group can help. Contact us to speak to one of our knowledgeable staff members today and see how our workplace safety expertise can benefit you.