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OM in the News: The Danger of Workplace Noise

April 9, 2014
A study links hearing and work-related injuries

A study links hearing and work-related injuries

Extremely loud noise on the job, as well as hearing loss from noise exposure, may cause workers to miss danger warnings, reports Newsmax Health (April 3, 2014). Workers regularly exposed to noise levels of 100 decibels – about the volume standing next to a lawnmower – have more than doubled risk of being hospitalized for a workplace injury. Workers with hearing loss were also more likely to be seriously hurt.

“Noise induced hearing loss is a public health issue – in the US, up to 30 million workers are exposed to noise,” said a Canadian researcher. “From an occupational safety perspective, work-related injuries remain an important issue that generates significant costs for businesses, workers and compensation organizations.” Exposure to high noise levels increases fatigue, decreases the ability to concentrate and impairs the quality of communication between workers.
Both noise and noise-induced hearing loss could be involved in the occurrence of accidents. For every decibel of hearing loss, the risk of hospitalization due to work-related injury increased by 1 percent. Workers exposed to noise levels above 100 decibels had 2.4 times the risk of being hospitalized for work-related injuries compared to workers not exposed to loud noise. Workers with the combination of severe hearing loss and working in an environment where noise exposure is overly intense the risk of being hospitalized with a work-related injury is 3.6 times that of workers with neither factor.
Workers who can’t hear properly, either because of hearing loss or wearing hearing protection that’s too strong, might miss important communications and signals on the job. One thing that might help is if workers and supervisors devise special safety signals that don’t rely as much on hearing.
Classroom discussion questions:
1. What levels of noise are students exposed to daily? Refer to Figure 10.4b in Chapter 10.
2. How can an operations manager protect employees?
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