Construction workers are often exposed to on-the-job noise that can permanently damage hearing. When we are exposed to loud noises over long periods of time, we are at increased risk of losing our ability to hear. The tiny cells in our inner ear that are most likely to be damaged are those that allow us to hear noises in the frequency range of the human voice.
It is important that workers wear hearing protection devices when exposed to noise from loud tools.
How to Reduce Sound Levels
- Sound is additive. Reducing the number of noise sources will reduce exposure to noise.
- Maintain equipment in proper working order. Well maintained equipment will operate more efficiently and be quieter.
- If possible, place equipment out of the way of yourself and other workers.
- Sound levels can sometimes be reduced by installing sound absorption materials or by reducing the amount of vibration of equipment.
- Place a barrier between the equipment and workers if possible.
If we cannot prevent exposure to sound, we can reduce exposure by the use of hearing protection. To determine the best type of hearing protection for any particular application, it is best to know a few things about the work environment, such as:
- The sound levels, which can be measured using a sound level meter
- The duration of time spent in noisy environments
- The degree to which sound levels vary in the work environment
Proper Use of Hearing Protection
- Hearing protection should not cause you discomfort. If it does, ask for other options.
- If foam earplugs are used, they should be inserted correctly into the ear.
- Earmuffs are easy to use, but may not offer the same level of protection as ear plugs. Always check the Noise Reduction Rating of the earmuff or ear plug to ensure you have the right level of protection.
- Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
- Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
- Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.
Questions for Discussion
- What are the primary sources of noise in your work area?
- What actions can be taken to reduce the level of noise in your work area?
- If you’re required to wear ear protection, does it fit properly and it is effective?