Protecting your workers’ hearing by ensuring they wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is one way to prevent yourself from receiving an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citation. In part one of this two-part series, the OSHA defense attorneys at Cotney Construction Law explained the noise-related factors that require your workers to wear PPE and the duration of time workers can be exposed to various noise levels. In part two, we will explore attenuation and different types of hearing protection.
Merriam-Webster defines attenuation as the process “to lessen the amount, force, magnitude, or value of.” Since hearing protectors only reduce the amount of noise reaching a worker’s ears, not the overall noise being projected from a source, it’s important for workers to have PPE that attenuates volume effectively.
If you can’t reduce noise exposure through work practice controls or engineering innovations, you have to be certain that your hearing protection meets the rigid guidelines established by OSHA. Many things can affect attenuation such as the quality and fit of a particular piece of PPE. To eliminate any guesswork involved with attenuation, ensure that your workers are wearing OSHA-compliant gear with functional adjustments.
To help ensure that contractors are aware of the efficacy of PPE, all manufacturers of hearing protection devices are required to display the device’s noise reduction rating (NRR) clearly on the packaging. Furthermore, contractors are required to provide regular testing of employees’ hearing by a qualified professional if they are exposed to noise levels 85 dB or higher on a regular basis.
Types of Hearing Protection
There are many types of hearing protection utilized by construction professionals to ensure that the risk of hearing damage is mitigated including:
- Single-use earplugs: often made from waxed cotton, foam, silicone rubber, or fiberglass wool. These self-forming earplugs take the shape of the internal ear to help protect the wearer against loud noises.
- Pre-formed or molded earplugs: designed specifically for the wearer. Molded earplugs must be fitted by a professional and come in disposable and reusable varieties. However, if you utilize reusable earplugs, they should be cleaned after each use to prevent infection.
- Earmuffs: seal the entire ear. Protects the outer ear and the inner ear to ensure the wearer is protected from all threats. Unfortunately, if the wearer has glasses, facial hair, long hair, or moves their face too much, earmuffs can shift, which effectively reduces the protection offered by earmuffs.
Protecting your workers’ hearing requires you to pay close attention to the noise levels being produced on your job site and foster accountability on all levels. If you want to ensure that your workers are protected, consult one of the OSHA defense lawyers at Cotney Construction Law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.