Exposure to noise hazards in the workplace
In February of this year, Safe Work Australia released a report which revealed that many Australian workers risk injury from loud noise in the workplace.
Hazards associated with noise can effect workers in the following ways:
- cause industrial deafness, ear ringing;
- disturb concentration and thinking;
- raise blood pressure, accelerate heart rate , heart disease, etc;
- fatigue, anger and aggression; and
- reduced immune response.
This report is part of the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance which investigates what hazards Australian employees are exposed to, and assists in finding ways to remove or at least reduce those risks in workplaces across the country.
The results of the investigation by SafeWork Australia included some interesting facts such as:
- 28-32% of the Australian workforce are likely to work in an environment where they are exposed to non-trivial loud noise;
- young workers were more likely to report exposure to loud noise than older workers;
- workers who worked at night were more likely to report exposure to loud noise than workers who worked during the day; and
- the main industries in which workers reported exposure to loud noise were manufacturing and construction.
But one of the most interesting results that I read about was the fact that only 41% of exposed workers reported they had received training in noise injury prevention… that is less than half!
Training is essential!
Your employees need to have the knowledge necessary to do all they can, and for you to do all you can, to reduce the risk of an injury occurring in your workplace. If an employee is not aware of the risks they are exposed to and how to minimise those risks, they will not be compelled to do what they can to protect themselves.
Awareness comes through training…
Train your employees in the hazards they are exposed to in their jobs and when carrying out certain tasks, and then teach them how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) in an effort to reduce the risks that an injury will occur. There is a step-by-step procedure featured in today’s bulletin which guides you through how noise hazards can be reduced in your workplace.
Step-by-Step: How to reduce the hazards associated with noise in the workplace
Noise in the workplace is a common hazard and the most common control measure is wearing hearing protection. This often develops into a standard operating procedure that establishes itself in the workplace and is never reviewed.
Here is an example of how the Hierarchy of Control could be applied to a noisy air compressor.
Step 1: Eliminate the noise. Can the process which generates the noise be eliminated altogether, perhaps by switching to a process that doesn’t create a noise hazard?
If the noise cannot be eliminated…
Step 2: Substitute the noise. Can the production process be undertaken in a different, quieter way, or the compressor replaced with a quieter one?
If the noise cannot be made quieter through substitution…
Step 3: Isolate the noise. Can you add a suitable muffler or create a suitable box around the compressor that contains the noise but still allows access for operation and maintenance?
If the noise cannot be eliminated or minimised by enclosing or isolating it…
Step 4: Engineer out the noise. Can the compressor be relocated outside the building (although neighbours need to be taken into consideration)?
If an engineering modification cannot reduce the noise level…
Step 5: Implement administrative controls. Inform everyone in the area by induction and signage that the area is noisy and precautions are needed to prevent potential hearing loss.
If administrative controls are not enough…
Step 6: Issue personal protective equipment (PPE). Provide hearing protection to all employees and visitors in the noisy area, and make sure they wear it. This involves information, instruction, training and record keeping of the PPE.
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