When you’re working in construction, it’s not uncommon to be around loud noises created by equipment that you or your coworkers may be using. However, there are simple steps you can take now to greatly minimize hearing-related risks down the road. Here are some key protective measures that workers and employers can take to protect against noise exposure on the jobsite:
Generally, workers should wear hearing protectors if workplace noise exceeds 85 decibels (A-weighted) or dBA. The effectiveness of hearing protection is reduced if protectors do not fit properly or are not worn consistently in loud noise environments. Make sure to find protectors that are comfortable enough to be worn throughout the day as well as provide adequate protection for your specific work environment. These devices include earplugs (roll down foam, reusable, custom molded, and canal) as well as earmuffs. Various types of earplugs provide different features. Earplugs are the more inexpensive type of PPE and disposable ones are oftentimes provided on-site. Music earphones are not acceptable substitutes for noise reducing plugs. Ear muffs are more durable and most provide greater protection than ear plugs.
Employer Noise Monitoring
Employers are required to monitor their worksite noise levels on a regular basis through the OSHA Hearing Conservation Program (HCP). Noise monitoring measures noise volume throughout various areas of the worksite to determine which workers must wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE). The HCP monitors to see whether workers are exposed to noise above 85 dBA or average 85 dBA noise levels throughout the eight-hour workday. Employers must check and calibrate instruments to effectively monitor their employee noise exposure.
Reducing the Overall Noise on Site
When it is possible, employers can explore ways to reducing noise levels to help protect their working against hearing-related risks. Certain engineering controls for lowering noise levels include substituting equipment for appropriate quieter equipment as well as retrofitting existing equipment with damping materials, enclosures, or mufflers. Administrative controls that can be used to control noise exposure include work rotation, workload reduction, restriction of access to high-risk areas, as well as shutting down noisy equipment when not needed.
For more information about OSHA-approved noise protection measures, see here.