It’s no secret that workers in the construction industry risk damaging their hearing if they don’t use adequate protection. A wide number of tools used regularly by workers are of sufficient volume to cause damage, including (but not limited to) 40 ton presses, bench grinders, CNC punch presses, rubber granulators and sand burners, as well as many others.
Online retailer Allearplugs.com have been campaigning hard to help raise awareness of the importance of hearing protection in sports, activities and industries where risk is at its highest, such as live performance, motorsports and swimming and – of course – construction.
According to the latest surveys from the LFS, an estimated 18,000 people in the UK have reported suffering from some form of noise induced hearing loss that was either caused or made worse by work, with 120 new claims being made in 2013 alone.
The figures in real terms are believed to be even higher, with nearly a quarter of a million workers suffering from some form of hearing problems as a result of noisy working environments, with tinnitus and industrial deafness the most reported: both, of course, are very relevant to the construction industry.
The total figure for hearing loss in the UK is even more shocking, with around 10 million people currently suffering some form of hearing loss: a figure that’s expected to reach 14.5 million by 2031.
What’s more in the USA, 48million people have reported some degree of hearing loss, and even more worryingly; 60% of the people with hearing loss are either in educational settings or in the work force. The NIDC (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) has also revealed that approximately 15% of those aged between 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.
A new study, meanwhile, has found that the problems aren’t limited to just hearing loss. In the US, researchers at the University of Kentucky have found that long-term noise exposure could also increase the risks of heart disease, with the strongest links found in working-age people.
Researchers looked at data on 5,223 participants in national health surveys taken, with all those surveyed aged between 20 and 69.
Dr Wen Qi Gan said: “Compared with people with normal high-frequency hearing, people with bilateral high-frequency hearing loss were approximately two times more likely to have coronary heart disease.”
Rob Doole, Managing Director for Allearplugs.com, said: “It’s vital that we raise awareness of noise induced hearing loss. Industrial machines are often loud enough to start causing permanent damage in less than a minute if no protection is in place. #Saveyourhearing has been created to try and make more people aware of just how easy it is to take steps in order to protect your hearing from industrial noise.”
Since the introduction of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, requirements are in place that employers and employees should follow in order to reduce exposure.
Employers are currently required to:
- Assess the risks to employees from noise at work
- Take action in order to reduce the noise exposure producing the risks
- Provide employees with protection if noise reduction is impossible
- Ensure the legal limits of noise exposure aren’t exceeded
- Provide employees with information, instructions and training
- Carrying out health surveillance where there is a risk to health
To help raise awareness of the campaign high profiled bands, motor racing champions and a vast array of publications have been using the hashtag #Saveyourhearing on social media, allowing the message to be seen by more than 3.7million people.