Exposure to loud noises at work unquestionably put employees at risk of developing hearing impairment.
However, a recent study suggests that loud noises on the job – as well as the hearing loss it causes – results in an increased danger of workplace accidents in Atlanta and elsewhere. Specifically, the problem is that these workers tend to more frequently miss danger signals and warnings.
Researchers with the National Public Health Institute of Quebec report that workers routinely exposed to noise levels exceeding 100 decibels had more than double the risk of hospitalization for a work-related injury. Additionally, workers who suffer hearing loss are far more likely to be seriously hurt on the job.
Noise at 100 decibels would be akin to standing next to a lawnmower or standing near speakers at a rock concert. Noise levels at 120 decibels would be akin to standing about 3 feet away from a jackhammer. Noise levels at 130 decibels could be registered if you were standing about 100 feet away from a jet engine.
Approximately 30 million workers in the U.S. are believed to suffer exposure to damaging levels of noise. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately $242 million is spent each year on workers’ compensation for hearing loss disability. Some of the occupations in which workers are the most at-risk:
- Airline ground maintenance;
- Jobs involving machinery or loud music.
The Canadian researchers examined records for some 47,000 male workers over the course of two decades. They found that approximately 1,700 had been hospitalized for work-related injuries within 5 years of being given hearing tests. The analysts then looked at hearing loss (indicated by those tests) and compared workplace noise levels to injuries.
What they found was that for every decibel of hearing loss, a worker’s risk of hospitalization for a workplace injury increased by a full percentage point. Workers who were regularly exposed to levels of noise above 100 decibels were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for a work injury, compared to fellow workers who didn’t endure those levels of noise.
For a worker who is both exposed to high levels of noise and has already suffered hearing loss, it’s estimated the work-injury risk is increased by 3.6 times. Workers who can’t hear well are going to be at risk for missing important signals and communications throughout the day, and those could pertain to potential hazards.
A representative with the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health was quoted as saying that companies have always had reason to monitor and maintain noise levels. These results should provide an even greater reason. That agency recommends employers undergo hazardous noise level prevention programs. These programs may include noise control, noise assessment, regular monitoring of employees’ hearing, proper ear protectors and worker training on noise protection.
Officials also recommended developing certain safety signals in areas that are noisy and thus rely more on visual cues than audio signals.
Hearing loss is usually permanent, and most doctors will tell you that treatment plans tend to involve prevention of further hearing loss and improvement of communication skills with what hearing remains.
Occupational hearing loss in Georgia is addressed in O.C.G.A. Section 34-9-264. The degree and length of workers’ compensation provided by state statute depends on the extent of the hearing loss.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.
Loud noise may raise risk for workplace injuries, April 2, 2014, By Shereen Jegtvig, Reuters
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