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Friday, January 9, 2015

Ways to check if employees are exposed to hazardous noise levels

Workplace noise level safety
Loud workplace noise levels are a safety hazard
By Christian Mills

Not everyone has a nice quiet office job, where the only real source of noise is cubicle-to-cubicle chatter, the ringing of phones and the occasional gurgle of the espresso machine. Many working in more blue-collar areas, such as construction sites, factories, mines or other industrial occupations, are exposed to hazardous noise levels almost daily.

Yes, that is right. Loud noises can be a danger to your employees’ health.

To be more specific, loud noises are hazardous to employees’ hearing. You’ve probably already know that hearing can be damaged when exposed to unusually high noise levels, such as loud music, taking off aircraft, or large industrial machinery and equipment. Sense of touch can also be damaged by the vibrations noise makes, especially if the employee in question is in frequent physical contact with the objects, such as construction workers using pneumatic drills.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to protect your staff’s health and welfare wherever you can. Therefore, if an employee suffers hearing damage because they were exposed to hazardous noise levels for too long, you can be held legally liable. That opens the way for expensive worker’s compensation claims, as well as the hassle of finding workers who can replace those who may be forced into early retirement due to extensive hearing loss.

One of the major problems management staff often suffer with regards to their relationships with those on the working is a level of unfamiliarity with the things they face on a day to day basis. Even if you are genuinely considerate of your employees and their needs, and wish nothing but their health and happiness, this removal makes it difficult to know what areas need seeing to first. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on employees coming to you all the time, sometimes you must take the initiative to check if employees are exposed to hazardous noise levels. Doing so not only protects them from harm, but also cements staff loyalty and improves productivity.

Listen to your staff

The first and most natural way is simple: just listen to your employees. The worst thing you can do as management is to dismiss and trivialise the things that staff face during their working day. So if you are getting frequent complaints about the level of noise being suffered while clocked-in, pay close attention.

Sometimes staff may not always come forward on their own, either. It is perfectly natural in some cases to not want to make a fuss of things, or at least not in front of the higher-ups, so you may need to prod them. If you know that staff are working around loud machinery and equipment, you may want to ask them yourself how they are finding the noise, whether individually or as a group during a general meeting. Alternatively, appoint or ask the staff to elect a representative, who can speak for whole staff body about issues they are particularly concerned about.

Check things out for yourself

While it is sometimes helpful to have someone who can report to you, nothing really beats getting a good hands-on look yourself. Reports can be understated, ambiguous, or even fudged, but first-hand evidence never lies. If you suspect that noise levels in the business may be getting particularly out of hand, go out of the office and walk around the noisy areas yourself. If you find yourself uncomfortable with standing there for five or ten minutes, imagine what it must be like to be there from nine to five, five days a week.

Try to do a quick walk around of your primary working areas every month or so, just to check for yourself what your employees must put up with during their daily routine. If you find it unbearable, then chances are your staff do too.

Get an expert

If you’re really not sure that you’re reading the data correctly, or else you’re pretty certain there’s a problem but don’t know what to do about it, there’s nothing at all wrong with seeking professional advice. There are many agencies out there who specialise in worker health and safety, and ensuring workplaces comply with OSHA standards at the federal or state level. Remember that they are there to help businesses however they can, they are not whistle-blowers who will land you hefty fines. If they were, no one would hire them. All they’ll do is inspect your premises, see if they are in compliance with OSHA, and give a list of improvements that can be made.

There are many companies out there that can be found online to help you with consulting and creating a safer work environment. One place to help you start your search for an expert is www.cestoday.com.

About the author: Christian Mills, is a freelance writer specializing in health and safety topics, in particular those topics that many employers don't think about like hearing safety. If you wish to learn more about Christian you can visit on Google+.

Image: US-PD