Workers Compensation insurance is often one of the largest insurance expenses for construction firms of all types. Loss control is a key factor in keeping insurance premiums low and avoiding the dreaded non-renewal due to excessive claims. Many Workers Compensation risks are obvious ones; falls from ladders or scaffolding, slipping when entering machines or large vehicles, cuts from power tools, back strain from excessive weight and/or improper lifing etc. One of the more insidious and potentially expensive claims can be from hearing loss.
Claims from hearing loss can be decreased or eliminated all together when the employer requires emplyees to wear hearing protection when they are exposed to loud and/or constant noise on the job. Put your hearing protection policy in writing, post it prominently and enforce the use of hearing protection. Using power tools and heavy machinery often becomes routine for construction workers, but damaging one’s hearing should never be considered “just part of the job.” Repeated or prolonged exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss.
To minimize the risk of hearing loss in the workplace, OSHA requires that employers limit their workers’ noise exposure to less than 90 decibels (dBA) for an 8 hour work day. However, NIOSH recommends further limiting exposure to 85 dBA for 8 hours of work. To give you an idea of how much noise that is, NIOSH reports the typical noise levels of the following power tools:
• Screw Driver: 85-91 dBA
• Drill: 87-93 dBA
• Grinder: 95-99 dBA
• Hammer Drill: 99-104 dBA
• Circular Saw: 102-107 dBA
• Miter Saw: 103-113 dBA
Still not sure how much noise is too much? When in doubt, wear hearing protection and reduce your exposure to these sources of noise. Protection factor ratings vary in terms of maximum noise reduction factor — see the manufacturer’s recommendation on the packaging.