Is Your Job Site Too Noisy?
I’m Ron Wittmeyer, and today, I want to talk about the construction site hazard of excessive noise. Why is that so important? Because excessive noise can cause permanent hearing loss. And when I say permanent, I mean a hearing loss that cannot be cured. It cannot be restored even with surgery.
We know that construction sites are notorious for having many very noisy operations going on. Hearing loss can occur suddenly with exposure to an extreme loud noise, for example from an explosion. Or a hearing loss can occur gradually over time by prolonged exposure to loud noise.
How do you know if the noise level is too high?
How do you know if the noise level at your construction site is too high? Just as a rule of thumb, there’s something called the three-foot rule. If your coworker is about two or three feet away from you and you have to raise your voice to communicate with your coworker about an arm’s length away from you, then the noise level may be too high.
There are also sound meters you can use. Or you can even download an app on your phone to test the sound level. Meanwhile, the OSHA regulation is that sound levels in places of employment must be kept below an average of 85 decibels over an eight-hour work day.
What to do about excessive noise?
So what can be done about excessive noise levels? OSHA recommends to reduce it. You can get quieter equipment. You can move noisy equipment to a place where there’s no exposure to workers. Or block it. You can also build a sound barrier around some equipment that’s very noisy.
Another OSHA regulation requires that an employer is responsible for providing sufficient hearing protective devices at no cost to the workers and must also train the workers on their use.
There are several different kinds of hearing protective devices, including earplugs. You can get specifically formed earplugs for your ears that are professionally done. You can also use earmuffs. Of course, these are specific hearing protection devices and not music headphones.
What if your employer refuses to supply hearing PPE
If your employer refuses to supply you with hearing protective equipment after you’ve requested it, I suggest you file a complaint with OSHA. Or if you’re a union member, raise the issue with your union rep. And if you are exposed to regular loud noises on a construction site, it’s a good idea to have regular hearing screenings so your hearing is monitored. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email.