Workplace noise assessments are essential
By Mobile Screening CEO Simon Holt
Many parts of our body can bounce back from injury. Broken limbs can be mended and cuts and bruises usually heal on their own.
Hearing loss, on the other hand, is irreversible, and can have a significant impact on a worker’s life.
Hazardous noise levels affect the functioning of the inner ear, causing temporary hearing loss and with further exposure to hazardous noise, the ear will gradually lose its ability to recover and the hearing loss can become permanent. This damage can also occur suddenly if a person is exposed to very loud impact or explosive sounds.
Permanent hearing loss results from the destruction of hair cells in the inner ear, and these cells cannot be replaced or repaired by any presently known medical treatments or technology.
Usually, hazardous noise first affects the ability to hear high-frequency (high-pitched) sounds, so even though a person can still hear some sounds, conversation will start to sound muffled and a person may find it difficult to understand what is being said.
Other results of hearing damage include tinnitus, which can become permanent and potentially disrupt sleep, reduce concentration, make people extremely irritable and lead to depression. The degree of hearing loss that occurs is dependent on how loud the noise is, how long someone is exposed to it and, to some extent, individual susceptibility.
The frequency or pitch can also have some effect on hearing loss, with high-pitched sounds being more damaging than low-pitched ones.
A small increase makes a huge difference when it comes to workplace noise and how much time a worker can be exposed to certain levels of noise before damage occurs.
An increase of three decibels in workplace noise represents a doubling or twice as much sound energy, and so, the length of time a worker could be exposed to the noise is reduced by half for every three decibels increase.
So, how do you know if your workers need hearing protection? As a general guide, workplace noise is a problem when employees have to raise their voice to communicate at a distance of one metre and/or employees have a temporary reduction in hearing or ringing in the ears after leaving work for the day.
However, the only accurate way to determine if a workplace is too noisy is by conducting a formal workplace noise assessment. The noise assessment will identify which workers are at risk of hearing loss, determine what noise sources and processes are causing the risk, identify if and what kind of noise control measures could be implemented and check the effectiveness of existing control measures.
In order to prevent the personal impact of hearing loss for workers, and the financial impact for employers, it is crucial that employers and employees take measures to protect the workers’ hearing and provide safe workplaces.
If you would like to carry out a workplace noise assessment, contact Mobile Screening on 1300 84 84 80 or you can conveniently request a quote online.