Exposure to noise is an everyday occurrence on and off the job for your employees.
If your employees work in a manufacturing facility the answer, most likely, is yes. The question may not be as easy answer if your employees work in retail, entertainment, or the service sector. Hearing loss prevention advocates are providing the catalyst needed to increase awareness and to increase the use of hearing protection.
Employees in the fast food industry may not recognize the potential affects of wearing the headset used to take order for the drive-thru window. Employees in a bar, music entertainment club or venue are candidates for hearing loss from long-term exposure. According to Lisa Goines and Louis Hagler (2007, March) one-third of student employees exposed to unsafe levels of noise at an entertainment establishment at a University had a loss of hearing of 30 dB or greater. An employee who experiences chronic exposure to noise may not notice the gradual loss of hearing. Hearing loss can be temporary when an employee removes themselves from the source of the noise.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 2006, April 3) provides guidelines to employers about PPEs (OSHA, n.d.). Research from the OSHA web site indicates that noise can affect a person’s blood pressure, can increase pulse rate and can contribute to other health issues. OSHA standard 1910 Subpart G the Occupational noise exposure standard 1910.95 provides guidelines to determine at what level employers must provide employees PPEs when noise cannot be reduced through engineering controls (OSHA, 2006, April 3). Brad Whitt (2006, October 1), Director, Hearing Conservation, Sperian Hearing Protection, LLC., explains how one company utilizes a technology that continually monitors the noise levels employees are exposed to during work time. Miniature microphones are used to determine if an employee’s hearing protection is appropriate for the noise the employee is exposed to during scheduled work time.
Employee buy-in is the key to a successful hearing loss prevention program. A simple hearing test provides a baseline for each employee. Any changes in subsequent hearing tests will show if a “standard threshold shift” (OSHA, 2006, April 3) has occurred. Employees who understand and recognize a standard threshold shift in their hearing can take immediate action to decrease their chances of permanent hearing loss.
Education is growing due to the increase in noise ordinances in cities such as San Francisco and through public service announcements from organizations such as Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers better known as H.E.A.R. (hearnet.com, 1999-2008). According to H.E.A.R (hearnet.com, 1999-2008) the City of San Francisco enacted an ordinance that included requirements for entertainment establishments to reduce noise and to provide ear plugs for employees. In addition to supporting changes in legislation, H.E.A.R partners with other organizations and with musicians to create educational public service announcements.
Proactive initiatives can identify occupational dangers before employees are injured. Reactive measures involve recognizing the problems and resolving the problem to reduce employee injury. Employers can use preventative measures to save an employee’s hearing. Training and proper PPE’s are a first step in reducing and eliminating future hearing loss.
Article compliments of Sharon Brasko
Goines, L. and Hagler, L. (2007, March). “Noise pollution: a modern plague.” Southern Medical Journal 100.3 (March 2007): 287(8). General OneFile. Gale. University of Phoenix – main account. Retrieved January 5, 2008 from find.galegroup.com
hearnet.com (1999-2008). San Francisco police ordinance for entertainment venues: earplugs and noise abatement. Retrieved January 12, 2009 from hearnet.com
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (n. d.). Noise control. A guide for workers and employees. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved December 29, 2007, from nonoise.org
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