Noise: An Occupational Hazard
Did you know?
In 2022, 18% of paid WSIB claims were related to noise-induced hearing loss.
April 26th is International Noise Awareness Day, and together with individuals and organisations around the globe, we are raising awareness of the harmful effects of noise on hearing, health, and quality of life.
How much noise is too much? Read on to find out!
Noise as an Occupational Hazard
Hearing helps us perceive the environment around us and to communicate with others, but too much noise can cause hearing loss. Noise is a common occupational hazard, particularly in industrial and manufacturing environments because of the processes and equipment used in these types of workplaces. Hearing loss can occur gradually or by sudden impact. It can occur due to workplace exposure or recreational activities. Unlike some occupational illnesses which are curable, hearing cannot be restored once it is lost. This is because excessive sound levels cause irreversible damage to the hair cells in your ears (the receptors that detect sound waves and convert them into audible sounds).
What’s the difference between noise and sound?
Sound and noise are often used interchangeably. However, they are not the same:
Sound is how we hear the environment around us…
…noise is unwanted sound.
Noise is subjective: playing loud music may be noisy to some, but enjoyable to others. In any case, too much sound can be hazardous and result in hearing loss.
Is your workplace too noisy?
A few indicators of a noisy workplace include:
- Inability to hear the person you are speaking to when you are less than 1 metre apart.
- Ringing in one’s ears at the end of their shift.
- When returning home from work, one must increase the volume on their car radio higher than when they went to work.
While these are good indicators of ‘loudness’, the true noise levels in your workplace can only be determined by a noise assessment conducted by an experienced professional.
Loud sounds are not the only sources of hearing loss:
Some chemicals (in combination with excessive sound levels) can also cause noise-induced hearing loss. Chemicals which may increase the risk of noise-induced hearing loss are referred to as ototoxins. Ototoxins include certain solvents, metal compounds, nitriles, asphyxiants, and pharmaceutics. It is important to identify the substances used in your workplace and categorize the risks of exposure. This can be done by carrying out a risk assessment.
What are the regulatory requirements around noise?
Under Ontario Regulation 381/15: Noise, the workplace must ensure workers are not exposed to more than 85 decibels (dB) averaged over an 8-hour shift. To determine if the sound level exceeds 85 dB, a noise survey must be carried out. If the workplace is unable to reduce the sound level below 85 dB through engineering controls, then hearing protection is required. In addition to hearing protection, workplaces with exceedances of 85 dB should implement a hearing conservation program.
Not sure if your workplace is too noisy? Talk to ECOH today; we can conduct a risk assessment to determine if the sound levels in your workplace are too high. The risks of hearing loss are not worth guessing that your sound levels are okay! We can also help you develop a hearing conservation program to best protect your people.
Taylor Broughton, Occupational Hygienist
ECOH is running a complimentary webinar on May 10th to explore the hazards of noise in the workplace. Register for free here: https://ecoh-ca.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_hgC9Mg2WQ8WPN5lhvdtYcQ
For more information visit our website or contact us now.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, November 8). What Noises Cause Hearing Loss? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html
Various flaticon images. Retrieved March 14, 2023 from https://www.flaticon.com/free-icon/fireworks_2963356?term=fireworks&page=1&position=3&origin=search&related_id=2963356