We’re exposed to a steady stream of sound on a daily basis. Some noises aren’t so bad, like the hum of friendly banter around the water cooler, or that Enya soundtrack on your iPod. (Relax, your secret’s safe with me.) But, unlike the soothing sounds of nature, some noises on the construction jobsite are like a thunderbolt to the eardrums.
Over time, the ear-splitting clamor of equipment and tools can cause permanent, irreversible hearing damage. Your hearing is a big asset, and it’s worth keeping. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Get motivated, get educated, know the limits, and get into gear.
I caught up with Erik Swanson, wrangler of all things safety, security, and protection at 3M, for a computer-side pow-wow about jobsite safety and hearing protection.
From what he’s seen, he believes this generation takes hearing safety—and jobsite safety in general—more seriously than generations past. Today’s workers might have older relatives who’ve suffered from hearing loss and don’t want to make the same mistake. They want to be able to walk away unscathed at the end of their careers.
Erik says he’s seeing fewer and fewer certified safety specialists who were trained outside a company. More often these days, an internal person is appointed and trained as the safety specialist. As a result, a lot of learning about safety happens on the fly. To stay safe on the job, it’s up to every worker to be accountable for total jobsite safety.
According to the US Department of Labor, noise-related hearing loss has topped the occupational health concerns in America for a staggering 25 years. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that upwards of 125,000 workers fell victim to significant and permanent hearing loss. More than 21,000 of those cases were reported in 2009 alone. Don’t become a statistic—protect yourself.
Know The Limits
Rules under OSHA set legal limits around acceptable noise exposure on the job. To protect yourself, you should know what those limits are, and file a complaint if you need to. OSHA permits a noise exposure limit—aka “permissible exposure limit” or PEL—of 90 dBA for all workers over an eight-hour day.
To minimize occupational hearing loss, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that noise exposure should be kept below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours. For more information around noise exposure on the job, visit the Department of Labor website.
Get Into Gear
When it comes to solving your most complex hearing protection challenges, 3M is the global authority for a reason: they make your safety priority #1. From detection to protection and validation, you’re covered with 3M’s range of hearing protection products:
- E-A-Rfit™ Validation Kit—Now a technician can test, document, and validate exactly how much hearing protection each person is getting, quickly, simply, and accurately.
- Earmuffs—Over-the-head, behind-the-head, under-the-chin, and helmet-attached models.
- Banded Hearing Protectors—More lightweight than earmuffs and ideal for intermittent use. Come in a range of styles and fits.
- Metal-Detectable Earplugs—Detectable in an industrial metal detection scanner for easy compliance. Come in a range of fits, styles, and sizes.
- Foam Earplugs—Come in a range of styles, sizes, and fits.
- Reusable Earplugs—Available in corded or uncorded, with or without a carrying case.
Rely on 3M for the right hearing protection for the job.
Over To You
As National Market Manager at Graybar, Todd’s goal is to find the best products and solutions to help contractors work more efficiently, stay safe on the job, and win more productive and profitable business.