MP3 music players join a long list of potential sources of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the workplace. Here are some suggestions for painlessly training your workers on the dangers of NIHL and on the proper use of hearing protection equipment.
In yesterday’s Advisor, we told you about the threat of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) posed by playing loud music on iPods and MP3 players, particularly when using the earbud style of headphones.
OSHA considers workplace noise to be “excessive” if employees are exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels or higher over an 8-hour period. Yet researchers have found that young people often listen to their favorite music at 110 to 120 decibels.
“That’s a sound level that’s equivalent to the measures that are made at rock concerts,” said Dean Garstecki, chairman of Northwestern University’s communication sciences and disorders department. “And it’s enough to cause hearing loss after only about an hour and 15 minutes.”
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One solution is what Garstecki calls the “60 percent/60 minute rule.” He and other hearing specialists recommend using MP3 devices, including iPods, for no more than about an hour a day and at levels below 60 percent of maximum volume.
Another option is the use of noise-canceling headphones, which, unlike earbuds, lessen or eliminate background noise. “That means listeners don’t feel the need to crank up the volume so high as to damage their hearing,” Garstecki said.
But blaring MP3 devices are just one of many potential sources of noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace. The newsletter, Cal/OSHA Compliance Advisor, suggests that, after educating workers on the dangers of NIHL, you take these additional steps:
- Make more than one type of hearing protection available. All ears are different, and there are even differences between the ears on a person’s head. For this reason, you should have varieties of protection on hand to ensure a comfortable fit. Comfortable hearing protection generally translates into improved compliance.
- Demonstrate how to properly wear the protection. Hearing protection donned inappropriately is both uncomfortable and ineffective. Also, when employees aren’t complying with hearing protection requirements, it’s often because they don’t know how to wear it properly— and don’t want to ask. For these employees, one-on-one instruction on how to select and wear protective equipment will generally help with compliance.
- Clearly delineate where and when protective equipment is actually needed, rather than instituting a carte-blanche rule that hearing protection is required everywhere and at all times when it really is not. Even the best hearing protection can be uncomfortable when worn for long periods. Employees, therefore, should be made to wear it only when necessary.
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A Tool to Conduct Hearing Protection Training
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says that failures or deficiencies in hearing loss prevention programs can often be traced to inadequacies in both the training and education of noise-exposed employees and of those who conduct the program. Among the questions NIOSH includes on its Hearing Conservation Program Evaluation Checklist are:
1. Has training been conducted at least once a year?
2. Was the training provided by a qualified instructor?
3. Was the success of each training program evaluated?
4. Is the content revised periodically?
5. Are managers and supervisors directly involved?
6. Are posters, regulations, handouts, and employee newsletters used as supplements?
7. Are personal counseling sessions conducted for employees having problems with hearing protection devices or those showing hearing threshold shifts?
You’ll find a wealth of training materials on hearing protection – and more than 30 other safety training topics – in BLR’s OSHA Training System.
As its name implies, this is a complete system to meet your full training needs. All the materials are prepared in advance, so no prep time is required. All you do is reproduce what you need and put it to use. Materials include:
▪ 32 complete safety units, meeting every key OSHA standard. Each includes full background for trainers, a ready-to-use safety meeting, and follow-up handouts. View a Table of Contents.
▪ Quizzes, handouts, and copies of 27 different employee booklets, coordinated to the safety meetings. (Booklets can be bought in any quantity at a discount.)
▪ A complete training recordkeeping and tracking system that tells you which employees need what training, and then tracks your program to ensure they get it.
▪ Quarterly updates, included with the program. You receive at least 4 new safety units every 90 days, covering new OSHA standards and training needs.
If you share the common problem of never having enough time or the right materials for training, we’d suggest you examine the OSHA Training System program. We’ve arranged for you to do so for up to 30 days at no cost or risk. Just click one of the ordering links above and we’ll set things up.