How Noisy is Your Workplace?

Source: Maxim Blinkoff - 123RF

According to NIOSH, there are an estimated 16 million people working in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for approximately 13% of the U.S. workforce.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational hearing loss is the most commonly-recorded occupational illness in manufacturing (17,700 cases out of 59,100 cases), accounting for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses. More than 72% of these occur among workers in manufacturing.

These numbers are particularly disturbing, considering that a person’s hearing loss must be determined to be work-related and the hearing loss must be severe enough that the worker has become hearing impaired, in order to be OSHA-recordable.

Many more workers would have measurable occupational hearing loss but would not yet have become hearing impaired.

Recommendations for effective hearing loss prevention practices and the rationale behind them can be found in two of NIOSH publications, the Criteria For a Recommended Standard: Occupational Noise Exposure, and in the Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss – A Practical Guide.

In 1983, a Hearing Conservation AmendmentExternal was added to the OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (29 CFR 1910.95), requiring that a hearing conservation program be implemented when employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8 hour time-weighted average sound level of 85 dBA.

Not only differences in exposure conditions affect risk. Certain biological factors – such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, genetics, and general health issues – can influence a worker’s susceptibility to the effects of noise.

NIOSH and OSHA have developed a co-branded document to address hearing loss caused by chemicals (ototoxicity) and noise exposures. The document provides information on ototoxic chemicals and substances that contain ototoxicants, industries, and occupations that are more likely to have ototoxicants, and recommendations for preventing and controlling exposures.

Check out NIOSH’s Sound Level Meter (SLM) app which combines the best features of professional sound levels meters and noise dosimeters into a simple, easy-to-use package.

The app was developed to help workers make informed decisions about their noise environment and promote better hearing health and prevention efforts.

Key Features:

  • Developed by experienced acoustics engineers and hearing loss experts.
  • Tested and validated (accuracy ± 2 dBA) according to standards in a reverberant chamber at the NIOSH acoustics lab – the only proper method to validate accuracy.
  • Meets Type 2 requirements of IEC 61672:3 SLM standard when used w/ external microphone.
  • Provides the most relevant metrics found in professional sound instruments today. Averages such as LAeq and TWA, Max and Peak Levels, Noise Dose and Projected Dose according to NIOSH and OSHA standards, and all three major weighting networks (A, C, and Z).
  • Capability to calibrate either internal or external microphone. Reporting and Sharing data.
  • Up-to-date informational screens on what noises are considered hazardous, how to conduct a noise measurement, how to properly select a hearing protector, and guidelines for preventing hearing loss.
  • Technical support available directly from NIOSH hearing experts.

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