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Occupational Hearing Loss Prevalent in Loud Work Environments

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that there are 22 million workers who are exposed to hazardous noise levels every year.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss also known as NIHL, is 100 percent preventable; however, once acquired, it is permanent and irreversible.
  • NIOSH has recommended that all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 decibels(dBA) for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss.
  • In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace with a permissible exposure limit of 90 dBA for all workers for an 8-hour day.
  • Exposures at or above these levels are considered hazardous to a worker’s hearing.
  • Workers are entitled to an environment and conditions that do not pose a risk of serious bodily harm.
  • Many companies are automating equipment that can be operated by workers from a quiet control room free from harmful noise and damaging chemical agents. When it is not possible to relocate a worker from a noisy area to a safe area, the worker must be protected.
  • In addition to damaging workers’ quality of life, occupational hearing loss carries a high economic price to society.

Understanding Occupational Hearing Loss

It’s been reported that each year, about 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work and another 30 million are exposed to chemicals, some of which are harmful to the ear (this is known as ototoxic). These numbers make occupational hearing loss one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States.

Companies Need to Follow Hearing Loss Prevention Standards

When it comes to hearing loss prevention, protection processes can look like many different things. Most companies will perform regular exposure assessments, make provisions of protective equipment, assess employee hearing, educate and train workers, and develop new ways to use automated equipment and technologies so workers are not exposed to high noise levels. One thing all companies do similarly though, is follow the occupational regulations and standards outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These guidelines protect workers from the effects of exposure to hazards substances and agents, including noise. Understanding these regulations is fairly simple.

OSHA – 1910.95:

  • OSHA sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. The noise dose is created on both the sound exposure level and its duration.
  • These limits are based on a worker’s time weighted average over an 8-hour day. With noise, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers, for an 8 hour day.

NIOSH Recommendations:

  • The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for occupational noise exposure is 85 decibels, as an 8-hour time-weighted average (85 dBA as an 8-hr TWA). Exposures at or above this level are considered hazardous.
  • Companies should use the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls to reduce workplace noise to below the NIOSH REL whenever possible and use hearing protection when hazardous noise levels cannot be adequately reduced.

The plain and simple truth is that it remains the responsibility of every employer to ensure a safe work environment for their workers. In addition, more work is needed in the areas of awareness to implement engineering controls or hearing conservation programs to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. In addition to NIOSH standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Act regulations have been in place since 1970 to ensure that workers are entitled to an environment and conditions that do not pose a risk of serious bodily harm.

Workers have the right to a workplace that undergoes regular inspections, and they also have the right to report errors, dangers, and injuries without the fear of retaliation from an employer, discrimination, or the loss of a job.

We Support Your Work Injury Claim

Did you sustain a work injury or hearing loss from excessive noise levels, or because of the lack of hearing protection or harmful chemicals? If so, the law offices of Wagner Reese may be able to assist you with your case. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation and talk about the steps you can take toward receiving compensation for your injury. Or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.

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