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Safety Tips: Hearing Protection

Safety Tips: Hearing Protection

Did You Know? Hearing protection is required when noise exposure exceeds an action level of 85 dba.  (For comparison, a table saw has a dba of 95.)  It is estimated that approximately 30 million people in the U.S. are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise levels. Noise is an unwanted sound that can affect job performance, safety, and your health.

OSHA requires all companies to provide fall protection for elevations of four feet in general industry workplace and six feet in the construction industry.  They also require fall protection to be provided when working over any dangerous machinery or equipment regardless of distance.

Signs You Need Ear Protection:
  • If it is necessary for you to speak in a very loud voice, or shout directly into the ear of a person to be understood, it is likely that the noise level is high enough to require hearing protection.
  • If you have roaring or ringing noises in your ears at the end of the workday, you are probably being exposed to too much noise.
  • If speech or music sounds muffled to you after you leave work, but it sounds fairly clear in the morning when you return to work, you are being exposed to noise levels that are causing a temporary hearing loss. In time, this can become permanent if you do not take care.

Proper Use of Ear Protection:
  • Hearing protection should not cause you discomfort. If it does, ask if there are other options that you can try.
  • If foam earplugs are used, they should be inserted correctly into the ear. This is done by squeezing the earplug so that it’s compressed fully, then opening the ear canal by pulling on the top part of the ear with the opposite hand, and carefully sliding the foam earplug into the ear. It is important to hold the earplug in place for 15 seconds so that it expands properly inside the ear canal.
  • Earmuffs are easy to use, but may not offer the same level of protection as most ear plugs. Always check the Noise Reduction Rating of the earmuff or ear plug to ensure you have the right level of protection.

Safety Work Practices & Tips:
  • Use comfortable hearing protection such as earmuffs and earplugs
  • Be sure you’ve been trained to properly insert disposable foam earplugs
  • Avoid inserting/removing earplugs if your hands are dirty. Better to clean first.
  • Take breaks from loud noises even if protective gear is worn.
  • Identify equipment and work areas where signs can be posted to make other workers aware of high noise areas.
  • Make noise sources such as compressors/machines away from workers.

Interesting Sites with Additional Information and Tips:

CWPR Toolbox Talk: Hearing Protection (PDF)

Amerisafe: Hearing Protection

Caterpillar: Hearing Protection (PDF)

Harvard EHS: Hearing Conservation Fact Sheet (PDF)

Sources of Tips and Information in this Post:

OSHA – Occupational Noise Exposure

Caterpillar: Hearing Protection (PDF)

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