Noise Exposures Among Public Works Employees


NIOSH recently assessed noise exposures among employees in a city’s public works departments as part of its Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program and at the request of a municipal human resources director.

The agency measured noise exposures above occupational exposure limits in the electric distribution, operations, and parks and recreation departments, with the highest exposures among employees using equipment such as chain saws, wood chippers, pothole patching trucks, and lawn mowers.

Different types of hearing protection were available in each city department; however, voluntary use by employees was inconsistent and some workers did not wear hearing protection when operating noisy equipment and machinery. To help protect city employees’ hearing, NIOSH recommends implementing a hearing loss prevention program that includes audiometric testing and provides workers with training in the use of hearing protection.

The employer should also supply a variety of hearing protection devices where required and ensure that employees wear the appropriate hearing protection properly.

NIOSH did not measure full-shift noise exposures in the city’s fire department, but agency staff identified high noise levels during the testing of equipment. NIOSH urges the city’s firefighters to wear hearing protection to protect themselves from the high noise levels generated during the weekly testing of equipment and apparatus.

While NIOSH staff did not measure noise exposures at the police department’s shooting range, the agency notes that previous HHEs have shown high noise levels that require officers to use dual hearing protection, including ear plugs and muffs.