noise safety at work

Noise Safety At Work

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the single greatest cause of permanent hearing loss in Australia – and it’s also the most preventable.

Over the past four years there were 65,300 reported claims for deafness in Australia.

Over one-third (35%) of these claims were made by employees in the manufacturing industry while 18% came from construction.

How noise damage occurs

Sound stimulates tiny hair-like cells in your inner-ear, which send messages to your brain. NIHL occurs because excessive noise damages those delicate hair cells and cannot be cured. Over time, it can get worse as noise exposure continues.

Dangerous decibels

The loudness of noise is measured in decibels. Sensitivity to noise will differ from one individual to the next, but experts believe that damage to hearing occurs when noise levels are higher than 85 decibels, which is about the loudness of heavy traffic.

The risk of hearing loss increases as the noise becomes louder. The length of exposure matters too. For example, it is not recommended to listen to noises of 109 decibels for any longer than two minutes at a time.

Reducing noise pollution in the workplace

Noise levels can be measured using a sound level meter, which detects the pressure of sound waves as they move through the air.

Reducing exposure to excessive noise in the workplace can be accomplished in different ways, such as:

  • Change or modify equipment.
  • Locate the equipment in a more isolated area or soundproof the room.
  • Make sure that people spend time working in quiet areas too.
  • Try to run noisy equipment early or late in the day when fewer people will be exposed.
  • Use personal hearing protection such as ear plugs or earmuffs.

If you want further information on noise, its effects and what can be done about it, visit SafeWork Australia