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Building a Better (and Quieter) Work Site

As a member of the building industry you are accustomed to working in dangerous conditions every day—with heavy equipment, powerful machinery with sharp edges, caustic chemicals and materials, moving parts, heights, holes—you name it. How well you handle the safety aspect of your job site factors in to your construction insurance premiums: fewer accidents and injuries on the job translate into savings in your pocket. But what about a risk that you can’t touch, taste, or see—the risk of hearing loss?

You and your employees are often exposed to harmful noise, either at levels that are of an intense yet short duration  (such as a blast or explosion) or loud sounds that last for drawn-out period of time (such as the whine of machinery used on a job site or in a woodworking or metal shop). In the course of that exposure, the sensitive structures of the inner ear can be damaged to the extent that noise-induced hearing loss results. What’s more, the louder the sound, the short the amount of time it takes for hearing loss to occur.

How loud is too loud?

Sound levels are measured in units called decibels. If sounds measure at 75 or fewer decibels, even long-term exposure is no likely to cause hearing loss. However, long or frequent, repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can definitely cause hearing loss. Unfortunately, much of the equipment that you rely on every day—such as bull dozers, chain and concrete saws, vibrating jackhammers, drills, pile drivers, impact hoes, trucks, pumps, pneumatic equipment, and more–are all capable of emitting an 85-decibels-plus, earsplitting levels of noise.

How to keep the noise down

Make it a requirement for employees to wear earplugs, earmuffs, or other protective devices whenever using loud equipment. Special devices that are activity-specific are available from hardware stores. Also, talk to your professional insurance agent to learn more about reviewing and improving your safety program to help ensure that your worksite remains accident and injury-free and your construction insurance premiums rates stay down.