Hearing Loss and Construction


Over 500,000 U.S. construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise on a regular basis. 

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But the use of hearing protection is the exception rather than the rule. A study of construction workers in Washington state showed that construction workers were exposed to 85 dBA or higher in about 70% of their workshifts, yet wore their hearing protectors less than 20% of the time.

On the up side, the study also concluded that, on average, workers achieved more than half of an earplug's published Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), and that most times, this was just enough protection for their application. 

source: 
1 - Suter, Alice. "Construction Noise: Exposures, Effects, and the Potential for Remediation; A Review and Analysis" (http://www.cdc.gov/elcosh/docs/d0100/d000054/d000054.html) 2 - Seixas, Noah and Neitzel, Rick. "Noise Exposure and Hearing Protection Use Among Construction Workers in Washington State," September 2004.

According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), over 500,000 construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise.

source: 
Source: Suter, Alice. "Construction Noise: Exposures, Effects, and the Potential for Remediation; A Review and Analysis" http://www.cdc.gov/elcosh/docs/d0100/d000054/d000054.html

It’s very prevalent.

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In a study of construction workers in Washington state, results showed that construction workers were exposed to 85 dBA or higher in about 70% of their work shifts, yet wore their hearing protectors less than 20% of the time.

source: 
Seixas, Noah and Neitzel, Rick. "Noise Exposure and Hearing Protection Use Among Construction Workers in Washington State," September 2004.

Construction workers and laborers do use hearing protectors on the job - but not enough!

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The use of hearing protection is the exception rather than the rule. A study of construction workers in Washington state showed that construction workers were exposed to 85 dBA or higher in about 70% of their workshifts, yet wore their hearing protectors less than 20% of the time.

On the up side, the study also concluded that, on average, workers achieved more than half of an earplug's published Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), and that most times, this was just enough protection for their application.

source: 
Seixas, Noah and Neitzel, Rick. "Noise Exposure and Hearing Protection Use Among Construction Workers in Washington State," September 2004.

Recent studies indicate as many as 60% of construction workers have suffered a significant decline in hearing. 

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By the age of 41, only one in five have normal hearing, and after 16 to 25 years on the job, the average worker has the hearing of someone 20 years older.

source: 
Hearing Protection: Double or Nothing?

While there is an array of activities happening on a work site at any given time, most construction noise averages less than 100 dB, ranging between 85 - 95 dB.

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While this does not lessen the need for hearing protective devices (HPDs), using lower attenuating and uniform attenuating hearing protectors can help workers avoid overprotection and thus improve overall worker safety.

source: 
Seixas, Noah and Neitzel, Rick. "Noise Exposure and Hearing Protection Use Among Construction Workers in Washington State," September 2004.

Construction workers and laborers are exposed to a variety of continuous and intermittent noise exposures on the work site.

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100+ dB: Immediate Noise Hazard - Protection Required:

  • Pneumatic chip hammer
  • Jackhammer
  • Concrete joint cutter
  • Chainsaw
  • Impact wrench
  • Pile driver
  • Bulldozer (no cab)
  • Sandblasting
  • Compressed air blower
  • Paver

 

90-99 dB: Significant Noise Hazard - Protection Required

  • Portable power tools (router, circular saw, drill, sander)
  • Table saw / Planer
  • Tamper
  • Crane
  • Hammer
  • Earthmover
  • Front-end loader
  • Metal shear

85-89 dB: Protection Recommended

  • Welding machine
  • Heavy equipment (in cab)
  • Backhoe
  • Concrete mixer
source: 
Compiled from data available from National Institutes of Occupational Safety & Health, Center to Protect Workers' Rights, and Laborer's Health & Safety Fund of North America