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Noise-induced hearing loss protection and Mining Safety

Noise-induced hearing loss protection and Mining Safety

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.
 
Unlike most occupational injuries, there is no visible evidence of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). It is not traumatic and often goes unnoticed when it first occurs. Noise-induced hearing loss accumulates over time, its effects realized long after the damage has been done. NIHL is permanent and irreversible. With proper education, motivation and protection, however, it is also 100% preventable.
 
According to the World Health Organization, noise-induced hearing loss is the most common permanent and preventable occupational illness in the world. In the European Union, NIHL is the most commonly reported occupational injury.
 
20% of EU workers are exposed to hazardous noise half their working time, 10% exposed full time (source: EU OSHA).
 
Howard Leight is committed to providing new motivational and training tools to build an effective Hearing Conservation Programme that works for your employees. Visit howardleight.com to learn more and receive these tools.
 
When is noise considered hazardous? Anytime you must shout at someone an arm’s length away to be heard.
 
While exposure to hazardous noise is common, prevention of NIHL is simple:
 
Consistent use of properly fitted hearing protection when exposed to hazardous noise. That is the goal of every Hearing Conservation Programme.
Noise-induced hearing loss is not solely a workplace issue. It can happen off the job, too. Many employees use power tools, attend loud rock concerts and sporting events, or participate in shooting sports.
 
All are opportunities for exposure to hazardous noise. Prevention is the key, on and off the job.
 
Indicators of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
 
Although there are no visual signs, there are a few simple indicators of NIHL. Identification in its early stages can help prevent further damage.
 
Gradual Progression
 
NIHL rarely happens overnight. Rather, it accumulates over time with every unprotected exposure to hazardous noise, usually in both ears. This progression can be detected through healthy hearing practices, including the performance of annual audiograms on all employees in your Hearing Conservation Programme. Audiograms can identify whether your employees are experiencing a degradation in hearing, which indicates permanent damage and requires further preventative action.
 
High-Frequency Hearing Loss
 
When hearing impairment begins, the high frequencies are often lost first, which is why people with NIHL often have difficulty hearing high pitched sounds such as human voices, alarms and signals. Compared to other sounds, they will seem muffled or distorted.
With normal hearing, conversations are understandable if they are loud enough. When someone suffers from noise-induced hearing loss, simply turning up the volume does not make speech clearer. The clarity is adversely affected regardless of how loud the volume.
 
Common Symptoms
 
Those suffering from noise-induced hearing loss will experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or muffled hearing. Non-auditory effects of NIHL may include increased stress, high blood pressure, sleep problems and/or headaches.
 
Create a successful Hearing Conservation Programme through best practices.
 
As manufacturing, construction and other industrial endeavors are on the rise in Europe, so are the number of people exposed to harmful levels of noise in the workplace. Over 29% of all employees are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in at least one-quarter of their time in the workplace, and 11% are exposed at all times1 – and these trends are increasing.
 
While noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and irreversible, it is completely preventable. The new European Union Directive 2003/10/EC, aims to prevent employee exposure to harmful noise, while promoting a healthier and more productive workforce.
 
The following outlines the provisions of the Directive, including best practices in implementing a successful Hearing Conservation Programme.
 
Determination and assessment of risk
 
  • Assessment – A noise exposure assessment must be obtained for all employees exposed to 80 dBA LEq. But not every employee must be personally monitored through dosimetry. Representative samples may be taken, if it can be shown that noise exposures are equivalent to other employees in the same area or performing the same task.
  • Professional Service – Noise levels throughout the workplace must be measured through representative sampling by a competent service.
  • Document Changing Conditions – Whenever you make a change in equipment or process, you need to document this change, even if the noise level is reduced.
  • Post a Noise Map – A noise map in common areas is an effective way to notify employees of area noise and related changes.
  • Document Exposure – Each employee’s TWA noise exposure should be recorded in his/her personnel file.
 
Avoiding and reducing exposure
  • Engineering Controls – Apply engineering controls at the noise source or along the noise path to reduce exposures. These controls may include vibration dampeners, absorptive panels, barriers, muffler, or variations in force or drive speed of motors.
  • Maintenance – Perform regular maintenance on machinery to prevent additional noise.
  • Administrative – Implement administrative controls to limit the exposure time for employees. These controls may include rotating employees in noisy areas, providing quiet breaks for noise-exposed employees, or moving processes such as maintenance or cleaning to quieter workshifts.
  • Buy Quiet – Purchase new products or machinery with enhanced noise control.
  • Maintain – Noise is often a machine’s cry for maintenance. Repairs can reduce noise levels.
  • Block or Isolate the Source – Erect barriers, or relocate noisy equipment (or their operators) behind heavy walls. Doubling the distance from a noisy piece of equipment effectively reduces the sound energy by half (about a 3 dB drop in noise level).
  • Schedule Employees – Administrative controls include such actions as giving noise-exposed employees breaks in quiet areas, or rotating employees into noisy jobs for short durations.
Personal protection
  • Voluntary Usage – A variety of hearing protectors must be made available to employees exposed to the Lower Action Level of 80 dBA (8-hour exposure).
  • Mandatory Usage – Employees must utilise hearing protectors when noise exposure meets or exceeds the 85 dBA Upper Action Level (8-hour exposure).
  • Usage – Employer must ensure proper use of hearing protection amongst noise-exposed employees.
  • Offer a True Variety – Make available to all your employees at least one style of single-use, multiple-use, and banded earplugs, and one earmuff. 
  • Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) – Determine employees’ earplug fit effectiveness by using field verification systems, such as VeriPRO™. Find out if they are receiving optimal protection, require additional training on earplug fitting, or need to try a different model.
  • Make HPDs Convenient – Increase accessibility to hearing protection by installing earplug dispensers near time clock or by placing earmuffs at supervisor stations.
Health surveillance
  • Audiometry – Preventive audiometric testing must be made available to employees whose exposure exceeds the lower exposure action levels.
  • Recordkeeping – Employer is responsible for maintaining up-to-date health surveillance records.
  • Access – Employees have access to health surveillance records upon request.
  • Retain Records – This will help your audiologist compare audiograms serially over time.
  • Get Follow-Up Reports – Ensure that your testing service provides understandable follow-up reports.
  • Review Results Immediately – Studies show that reviewing audiometric test results with employees right after testing yields a more positive impact.
 
Worker information and training
  • Training – Employees must receive information on risks of noise exposure, methods of avoiding/reducing exposure, exposure limits/values per Directive, assessment/measurement of noise, proper use of hearing protectors, detecting/reporting signs of noise exposure, circumstances of health surveillance, and safe working practice to avoid noise exposure.
  • Provide One-on-One Training – This individualized attention will make for a more memorable training experience.
  • Offer Ongoing Education – Distribute informational flyers and hang motivational posters in common areas and near hearing protection sources. Offer “toolbox” trainings throughout the year.
Consultation and participation of workers
  • Participation – Employees can actively participate in the decisions affecting their hearing health.
  • Teamwork – Assembling a cross-departmental team for your Hearing Conservation programme can enhance support, provide input and help implementation in a variety of areas. Include staff from safety and health, employees in your hearing conservation program, medical personnel, purchasing, human resources and senior management.
Understanding the Risks
 
Employees are generally unaware of the potentially harmful noise levels they are exposed to every day — both on the job and off. The Howard Leight® Noise Thermometer is a highly effective visual tool that helps employees understand noise risks in everyday activities and European hearing protection requirements.
 
Main Components of European Union Directive 2003/10/EC
 
Action Level - 80 dBA
 
Monitor all noise levels Annual audiometric testing for exposed workers Annual training for exposed workers Variety of suitable hearing protectors must be made available at no cost to the employee 
 
Permissible Exposure Limit - 85 dBA
 
Hearing protectors required for noise-exposed workers
 
Hours Per Day 8 6 4 3 2 1.5 1 0.5
Sound Level (dBA) 85 86 88 89 91 92 94 97

 

Content kindly provided by HSE Solutions.
www.hsesolutions.co.za

 

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