Listen to Warnings About Work-Related Hearing Loss
It's no secret that manufacturing can involve one of the loudest on-the-job environments. Over time, many workers suffer from hearing loss -- and once the damage is done, they are at risk for other work-related injuries.
The Cost of Not Complying
1. An inspection of a Florida manufacturer's facility resulted in 24 violations, including "risking its workers' health by exposing them to loud noises," according to OSHA. The company received citations in 2011 with proposed penalties of $68,600.
2. OSHA cited a Texas trailer manufacturer in 2011 with multiple violations including failing to "establish and maintain an audio-metric testing program." Proposed penalties for all violations were nearly $950,000. "Audio-metric testing is required when employees are exposed to high noise levels to determine if their hearing is being adversely affected," OSHA stated.
3. A box manufacturer's failure to adequately protect workers against the hazards of occupational noise exposure resulted in nearly $90,000 in fines from OSHA in 2002.
OSHA charged the Massachusetts company didn't provide enough safeguards for employees at its plant.
"OSHA's hearing conservation standard requires employers to take effective steps to protect the hearing of workers who are exposed to high noise levels," said an OSHA official. "These include annual audiograms for exposed workers, notifying those employees if testing reveals a deterioration in hearing ability and referring them for appropriate medical evaluation, if needed."
So it's important for your company to adopt a preventative management program aimed at reducing the exposure workers have to noise.
OSHA has regulations concerning the level and duration of noise in manufacturing plants. Here are some suggestions for reducing your company's liability and protecting your workers' hearing:
- Require workers to wear protective equipment, such as earplugs or muffs, that fit properly. "Plain cotton is not an acceptable preventative device," according to OSHA.
- Remove hazardous noise from the workplace through engineering controls such as installing a muffler or building an acoustic barrier.
- When needing new equipment, purchase quieter models. Check into retrofitting older equipment with mufflers.
- Measure noise at your manufacturing plant to ensure you are in compliance with OSHA's acceptable standards.
- Decrease the amount of time that workers spend around loud noises. Rotate workers from noisy to quieter jobs.
- Require noise-exposed workers to get their hearing checked annually.
More advantages to a quiet environment:
"Noise itself can have an adverse effect on productivity," notes the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. For complex jobs and those requiring concentration, studies show that greater efficiency is linked to lower noise levels. And the ease and accuracy of communication is improved as noise levels are lowered.