Every April 28th, Workers’ Memorial Day is observed in the United States. It honors employees who have been killed on the job and recognizes the suffering that families and communities continue to endure as a result. It affords us the opportunity to commit ourselves to making all workplaces as safe as possible.
On April 28th, 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established. It is this agency’s mission to set and enforce safety standards, and provide training and assistance to promote the safety of all Americans on the job.
A Few Startling Statistics
According to the latest OSHA statistics, 4,405 employees were killed on the job in 2013. Approximately one out of every five of these fatalities occurred in the construction industry. Each of these deaths represents a catastrophic loss; OSHA continues to work tirelessly to reduce the number of jobsite deaths to zero. Since OSHA’s inception, workplace fatalities have declined by over 65 percent and injury rates have fallen by 67 percent.
In addition to minimizing the number of fatalities in the workplace, OSHA dedicates its resources to protecting workers from other risks. While it is easy to imagine how slips and falls and chemical exposure must be prevented, there are other ailments that are equally serious but garner less attention. Job-related hearing loss is a prime example.
Hearing Loss in the Workforce
The Centers for Disease Control estimates two million Americans endure potentially damaging noise at work each year. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that almost 125,000 American employees have experienced significant and permanent hearing loss due to noise exposure in the workplace. Long-term exposure to noise over certain decibel levels can lead to a permanent loss that neither surgery nor hearing aids can remedy. In addition, loud noises increase workers’ stress levels, impede concentration, reduce productivity and compromise communication. Perhaps most grim of all, noise-related hearing loss affects a person’s ability to hear high frequencies and to understand speech, which may lead to depression and social isolation.
The good news is that noise-related hearing loss can be prevented. Please note the following:
- You are endangering your hearing if your ears ring after you leave an environment or if you still have difficulty hearing what someone is saying when they are only an arm’s length away from you.
- Prolonged or repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels may damage your hearing over time and cause hearing loss. A normal conversation is about 65 decibels, while a pneumatic percussion drill puts out a whopping 119 dB.
- Check OSHA guidelines and take preventive measures if the noise level at your workplace exceeds 85 decibels.
[Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/stats.html; https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/]
Job-related injuries come in many forms, ranging from fatal accidents that occur in an instant, to long-term exposure to noise that causes moderate to severe hearing loss. While workplace injuries will never be totally eradicated, OSHA, supported by state governments and concerned employers, hopes to reduce these tragedies in the coming years.
An estimated four million people in the U.S. work in noise-damaging environments every day. Being proactive and taking the time to both acknowledge and help protect our ears are important steps towards possibly preventing further injury. Companies like Miracle-Ear offer free hearing tests and free lifetime checkups. This Workers’ Memorial Day, take a moment to recognize just how important your hearing is by getting it checked.