Loud machines, jackhammers, construction sites and warehouses, they all carry with them an immense amount of noise that has lasting effects on your workers whether you realize it or not. Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work daily. An estimated $242 million is spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability.
While there are many types of protection out there, what goes into selecting the proper noise protection for your job?
Consider the environment that you’ll be working in. Do you need a portable solution? Or how about something that is better suited for long term use. Will it be hot and humid requiring a more comfortable solution? Or do you need something that won’t interfere with the other PPE that is required for the job.
No matter what the job is, there is a solution to properly protecting your workforce. However not all ears are created equal so there may also be differing solutions within a single working environment.
Consider the following when making your selection:
- OSHA states that permissible exposures for an 8 hour period should never go above 90 decibels and decibels of 115 should not be experienced over 20 minutes.
- When shopping, hearing protection options should carry a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given working environment.
- When selecting protection NIOSH recommends derating hearing protectors by a factor that corresponds to the available real-world data. Specifically, NIOSH recommends that the labeled NRRs be derated as follows:
- Earmuffs – Subtract 25% from the manufacturer’s labeled NRR
- Formable earplugs – Subtract 50% from the manufacturer’s labeled NRR
- All other earplugs – Subtract 70% from the manufacturers labeled NRR
- If you choose to combine hearing protectors (i.e. earplugs and earmuffs) rather than adding the two NRR numbers you simply add 5 more decibels of protection to the device with the higher NRR
Here is a chart to help you determine what might be excessive noise in your workplace:
Find out more about the effects of loud noise exposure and safety solutions here: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/