Many construction contractors feel that noise exposures in construction are short-lived and the risk of damage is small. However, hearing tests of construction workers tell a different story. So how can we interest companies in doing a better job? One new idea is to acknowledge and promote companies that are doing it right.
NIOSH convened an expert panel to develop criteria for excellence in on-the-job hearing loss prevention. The Safe in Sound award will recognize the organizations that meet the criteria. An award will be given in each of the three sectors: construction, manufacturing and service. A fourth award will be given for “innovation” in hearing loss prevention, perhaps for a particularly effective training program, a new hearing protector or a successful noise control.
NIOSH Project Director Dr. Thais Morata is among the hearing conservation experts who will judge the entries. Explaining that preventing loss rather than achieving regulatory compliance is the goal of the new program, she says, “Organizations should make the case with that focus in mind. Award applicants will be given the freedom to demonstrate their evidence of hearing loss prevention in a manner that best exemplifies this goal. This was felt to be more inclusive and would also allow for the discovery of atypical successes in hearing loss prevention efforts.”
The LHSFNA’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health, Scott Schneider, is also a member of the panel. He remarks, “Preventing hearing loss is part of every contractor’s responsibility. This award will shine a spotlight on those companies who are succeeding. Hopefully, it will inspire others.”
Thousands of workers in this country are hearing impaired due to years of noise exposure on construction sites and work zones. Many more are actively damaging their hearing everyday while operating heavy equipment. Even being in the vicinity of such loud operations can be dangerous to a Laborer’s hearing. However, change is coming.
“There are signs of an increased awareness of the need and importance to protect one’s hearing across economic sectors,” says Morata. “It is common to see individuals wearing hearing protection doing yard work, working in construction or during noisy entertainment activities. Unfortunately, still there is comparatively little progress towards noise labeling and noise control, but several agencies, like NIOSH, are increasing their efforts to promote noise control.”
The entry deadline for Safe in Sound award nominees is September 1, 2008. For more information on the award and how to submit your program, visit www.safeinsound.us. The award will be presented at the National Hearing Conservation Association meeting in Atlanta in February 2009.
A best practices guide on occupational noise is available through the LHSFNA website. This comprehensive, interactive section includes the NIOSH Noise Meter as well as information on how to reduce noise on the job.
[Jennifer E. Jones]