Even though Hearing Awareness Week which commenced on August 25th is over, the message it aims to send is relevant all year round.
The Hearing Awareness Week attempted to bring into focus important issues for Aussies who are hearing impaired, deaf or have chronic ear disorders. For members of the construction industry, the ability to hear is affected by safety and also affects safety, so it is that much more important.
Surprisingly one in six Australians are deaf or suffer from some sort of hearing impairment. We need to recognise the risks that contribute to hearing loss if left unchecked to protect our hearing just as we would any other part of our body.
A number of events have been held across Australia including sports event, a public exhibition on hearing technologies, anaddress to a conference or hearing safety training for staff.
Read more about the Hearing Awareness Week Initiative at http://www.hearingawarenessweek.org.au/
Recently WorkCover also issued a warning to construction workers to protect their hearing. The worker safety authority apparently pays out millions each year in compensation due to hearing related claims which in their opinion is a reflection of the industry’s failure to manage the risk of hearing loss from workplace noise. They warned that hazardous noise can destroy the ability to hear clearly and make working safely more difficult.
“From 2008/09 to 2010/11 there were 10753 claims for hearing loss throughout NSW at an estimated cost of more than $171 million to the NSW WorkCover Scheme.
“Hearing damage generally occurs gradually over a number of years and is often irreversible.
“Hearing can also be damaged immediately from exposure to impulse noise such as explosive powered nail guns, firearms and stamping presses.
“By managing the risks associated with noise, businesses can protect workers from hearing loss, improve conditions for communication and create a less stressful and more productive work environment.
Many construction jobs, such as concrete work, site excavation, highway construction, and carpentry involve high levels of noise. Major noise sources include heavy equipment, such as loaders, dozers, and cranes, as well as tools like jackhammers and chipping guns. Excessive noise at construction sites not only causes hearing loss, but can create a safety hazard by masking the sounds of oncoming vehicles or other threats.Hearing loss from loud noise limits your ability to hear high frequencies, understand speech and reduces your ability to communicate which can lead to social isolation so managing noise is a major aspect of hearing protection and general site safety.
Employers should begin tackling Noise Hazards by:
- Identifying hazards and assessing the noise risk to workers from plant, machinery and tools etc.
- They must then attempt to minimise the risk if it cannot be completely eliminated. This can be done by eliminating and reducing noise at the source by modifying working methods, choice of equipment, and by technical means and
- The final level of protection is the least effective but still necessary – PPE. Hearing protection is needed to deal with any risk from noise after you have taken steps to eliminate and reduce risk by other means.