One of the things that safety professionals often discuss in the workplace is hearing conservation. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common work related injuries in many countries with an estimated 22 million US workers exposed every year.
There are two popular points of view: “We need to get a program started” or “We have a program in place and we no longer worry about it.” For many, working for a reputable company with a hearing conservation plan providing personal protective equipment and more especially hearing protection in place would appear to be the “happily ever after” for hearing conservation issues.
However, don’t let your guard down as there might be a “noise creep” in your midst! The creep may arrive over time, or be suddenly introduced into your work environment. Here are some ways in which the “noise creep” could appear in your workspace.
Over the years, even without any apparent changes in workplace equipment, noise levels will rise. As equipment ages, rubber parts begin to buffer less and less noise as they lose their elasticity. Motors and pulleys, belts and sprockets all begin to raise their voices as they age. Even with regular maintenance, the creep occurs. An assessment of the noise levels should be done periodically to ensure that work environments are not being effected as equipment ages.
The addition of new equipment to the work environment after a hearing conservation plan has been established opens the issues of hearing loss and conservation all over again. These issues need to be addressed to account for any potentially new noise increase. In many cases, the only action needed is for the rise in noise to be noted in the Hearing Conservation Plan that is kept on file. Whether there is a need for additional hearing conservation measures or not, this notation will indicate that the equipment has been considered in the overall plan for the facility.
Your work environment may not include heavy industrial equipment; but still, other sources of noise can creep in. If your business is expanding, or a new building is being constructed in the lot next to your office, beware of the noise and take action to ensure your hearing and the hearing of your co-workers is not being damaged. In the end one can’t be too careful when it comes to keeping out the “creep.”
Take away: Always have a written plan and always document your actions. If you need help with creating or adjusting a plan, please contact ORR Safety. Resources for writing a plan as well as PPE products for the conservation of employee hearing are a specialty here at ORR Safety.