Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the Workplace

Safety professionals, especially those with new responsibilities, often struggle to find areas of focus when evaluating current workplace hazards. A great place to start, due to the entirely preventable nature of the disease, is occupational hearing loss.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) accounts for over 10 percent of all recordable illnesses, according to OSHA 2010 data. There is also some consensus regarding potential underreporting by employers. If noise levels exceed 85 dBA in an 8-hour time-weighted average, those areas need to be identified as viable areas of concern. It is important to remember that sound levels (decibels) exist on a logarithmic scale, a shift in noise level by even one decibel is significant. In fact, an increase of 3 dB doubles the noise intensity.

It’s not always simple to accurately measure noise exposure. Sound level meters and dosimeters may not be familiar instruments to most safety professionals. With that in mind, engaging the help of a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) can be a great idea to ensure noise levels are accurately measured and recorded. Additionally, CIHs can help identify ototoxic compounds which are chemicals that can cause hearing loss without producing any sound. Once those chemicals are identified, a conversation regarding the hierarchy of controls can help guide decision-making to ensure conditions are made as safe as possible for affected employees. Most important, noise induced hearing loss is not reversible so every precaution needs to be taken to ensure appropriate levels of safety for affected employees.  Please reference the article linked below for more information:

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