Noise Complaints Don’t Fall on Deaf Ears: OSHA Sets Out to End Workplace Noise Exposure and Related Hearing Loss

Recently, OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health teamed up to compel inventors to develop a solution to workplace noise exposure and corollary hearing loss.  The trifecta endeavors to ameliorate the risk of hearing loss that 22 million workers face every year from workplace noise hazards.

Employers are required to implement an effective hearing conservation program whenever worker noise exposure is equal to or greater than 85 dBA for an eight-hour exposure, or 90 dBA in the construction industry.  Noise controls are the first line of defense to preempt noise exposure and typically take one of three forms: (1) engineering controls; (2) administrative controls, and 3) hearing protection devices (HPDs).  Engineering controls involve modifying equipment or making changes to the noise source.  Administrative controls entail changes to the physical workplace to reduce noise or worker exposure to noise.  Lastly, hearing protection devices include earmuffs and plugs.

In this regard, OSHA and its partners launched the “Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge” to solve the workplace noise exposure problem. The competition is now open to the general public. Idea submissions are due by September 30th.  Ten finalists will be selected to advocate to a panel of judges on October 27th, 2016 in Washington D.C.  Participants are encouraged to focus on topics including: enhancement of employer training and improvement of the effective use of hearing protection; alerting workers when hearing protection is not blocking noise sufficiently, and allowing workers to hear important alerts or human voices while remaining protected from harmful noise.

Together, the collaborative effort sets out to challenge inventors and entrepreneurs to make the workplace a safer place for employees.  More information may be found here.


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