NOISE EXPOSURE & HEARING PROTECTION

In the United States, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition after high blood pressure and arthritis. Short-term exposure to loud noise can cause a temporary change in a person’s hearing (ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noise. But repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent ringing in the ears or hearing loss. For the construction industry, OSHA tells us our noise exposure cannot exceed an average of 90 decibels (dba) over an eight-hour period (OSHA 1926.52).

COMMON CAUSES OF NOISE IN CONSTRUCTION

  • Heavy equipment like milling machines and pavers.
  • Excavators and dozers.
  • Concrete saws.
  • Chipping hammers.
  • Air hammers.
  • Hydraulic hammers.

SIGNS OF NOISE OVEREXPOSURE

  • A person must raise their voice to be heard by another person three feet away – noise is about 85 decibels (dBA).
  • A person must shout to be heard by another person three feet away – noise is about 95 decibels (dBA).
  • A person hears ringing or humming in their ears at the end of the workday.
  • A person notices temporary hearing loss at any point when leaving work.

CHOOSING THE CORRECT HEARING PROTECTION

Hearing protection is labeled with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). When worn correctly, the NRR tell us the amount of noise or sound reduction we can expect when wearing hearing protection. Due to changing factors such as size, worn correctly, etc., OSHA suggests reducing the NRR by 50% for a true noise reduction in the field. If you combine two types of hearing protection together, ear plugs with earmuffs, you only add an NRR of five to the higher NRR form of hearing protection.

TYPES OF HEARING PROTECTION

  • Earplugs – when worn correctly can give you the highest NRR.
  • Earmuffs – form air‐tight seal over the ear, NRR up to 30 dB; less effective when using eyewear.
  • Canal Caps – lower NRR; use pressure from a headband to hold the earplugs in place.

IMPORTANT FACTS TO REMEMBER

  • Repeated exposure to high levels of noise over long periods of time will reduce your ability to hear.
  • You may not notice a loss of hearing until a substantial loss has occurred.
  • Hearing loss is typically gradual but is irreversible.

Download a printable PDF and recording sheet here.

Heat Stress is Serious

Originally published on June 20, 2016

Working in a hot environment, such as a construction site, puts stress on the body’s cooling system. When heat is combined with other work stresses – like hard physical labor, loss of fluids, or fatigue – it may lead to heat-related illness, disability or even death. There are three stages to heat-related illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that are brought on because the body has lost minerals through sweating. If cramping occurs, move to a cool area at once. Loosen clothing and drink cool water or an electrolyte replacement beverage. Seek medical aid if the cramps are severe, or don’t go away.

Heat exhaustion can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures for several days and have become dehydrated. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, headache, fatigue and sometimes nausea. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. If you experience heat exhaustion, get out of the heat immediately and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can’t get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Slowly drink fluids. If possible, lie down with your feet and legs slightly elevated.

Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat illness and is a medical emergency. It often occurs after heat cramps or heat exhaustion are not properly cared for. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat illness.

Heat stroke can kill, or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Symptoms are similar to heat exhaustion, but the skin is hot and dry and breathing is deep and fast. The victim may collapse. The body is no longer able to sweat, and the body temperature rises dangerously. If you suspect that someone is a victim of heat stroke – also known as sun stroke – call 911 immediately. Move the victim to a cool area and remove excess clothing while waiting on help to arrive. Fan and spray them with cool water. Offer sips of water if the victim is conscious.

There are things you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Consider beverages that replace electrolytes. Stay away from beverages with caffeine. Caffeine contributes to dehydration.
  • Slow down in hot weather. Your body’s temperature-regulating system faces a much greater workload when the temperature and humidity are high.
  • If possible, get accustomed to the heat gradually.
  • Dress for hot weather. Light colored clothing reflects heat.
  • Get out of the heat occasionally. Take breaks in a cool, shady location.
  • Eat light, cool meals.

Download the recording form here.

Hand Sanitizer Safety

We’ve heard a lot about hand hygiene during the COVID-19 outbreak. Along with other disease prevention strategies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

To meet Food and Drug Administration and CDC approval, hand sanitizers must be greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol. This makes alcohol hand sanitizers highly flammable, and if an ignition source is present, hand sanitizer will ignite at room temperature.

Recently, a UPS distribution center in Plainfield, Indiana experienced extensive damage and loss of product when an employee ignited hand sanitizer in a semi trailer at the facility.

Everyone should exercise caution when using/applying alcohol-based hand sanitizers near potential ignition sources, like cigarette lighters.

For more info on hand sanitizer flammability and the importance of proper storage, check out this five-minute video by the National Fire Protection Association.

New Construction Worker Safety Tips

Originally published 06/06/2018

New workers think differently than older, more experienced people in the workplace. They are typically inexperienced and may not be familiar with the job tasks or hazards on worksites or in workplaces. New workers are more willing to take unnecessary risks and possibly putting themselves into hazardous situations, without thinking they are, because they are eager to get the job done. They may be new to construction work altogether, and it may be the first job they’ve ever had. They may feel discouraged to ask questions for fear of appearing unknowledgeable to their coworkers and superiors.

It is important for a supervisor to provide new workers with constant interaction along with hands-on training until they are certified or deemed competent for the job at hand. Engaging them to ensure they feel valued and part of the team is also important. It allows them to feel comfortable sharing questions and concerns they may otherwise conceal out of fear of looking incompetent, leading to potential workplace accidents or injuries. Regular safety meetings are a way to keep new workers engaged and feeling like they are able to approach their supervisors with questions, concerns, or ideas they may have for the work they are expected to do.

Training is essential before any work begins. Start with a thorough orientation to the company, the safety rules, emergency procedures, and rights and responsibilities. Document the training, and possibly give a brief quiz at the end of orientation. When supplying workers with personal protective equipment, train them how to use it, educate them on the limitations and show them how to care for and maintain it. Before they can start any work, you must show them how to perform on a job safely. One of the best ways to train workers how to perform jobs safely is to have accurate, well-written safe work practices and safe job procedures. Have an experienced supervisor train them. Engage them by providing specific job-related safety training and specific job procedures for each task they are expected to perform. Train them on hazard recognition and control. One of the keys to safety is to know how to recognize and control hazards.

Download a recording form here.