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How loud noise greatly increases the risk of serious work injuries

Anyone whose job requires them to work in loud conditions knows from firsthand experience just how challenging it can sometimes be to get work done or even communicate with fellow workers. However, a recently released study shows that these loud conditions may actually be putting you at risk of a serious work injury.

Researchers from the National Public Health Institute of Quebec examined the medical records of 46,550 male employees working over a twenty-year timeframe. Here, they determined that 1,670 of these employees had been hospitalized at some point for a work-related injury within five years of submitting to a hearing test.

From there, the researchers proceeded to compare the level of hearing loss reported in these hearing tests with both the number of work injuries and the workplace exposure to loud noise.

Somewhat shockingly, they determined that the risk of hospitalization for a work-related injury increased by one percent for every decibel of hearing loss recorded.

"Despite considerable energy devoted to the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss, it remains a significant problem," said the primary author of the study. "From an occupational safety perspective, work-related injuries remain an important issue that generates significant costs for businesses, workers and compensation organizations."

In addition to these findings, the study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, determined the following:

  • Those employees regularly exposed to noise levels exceeding 100 decibels -- a noise level roughly equivalent to standing next to a running lawnmower -- are 2.4 times more likely to be hospitalized for a work-related injury than those employees exposed to no loud noise.
  • Those employees who suffer from severe hearing loss and who are regularly exposed to loud noise are 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalized for a work-related injury than those employees with neither risk factor present.
  • Those employees regularly exposed to loud noise are more prone to fatigue, decreased concentration and low-quality communication with fellow employees, all factors that increase the risk of work injuries.

We can only hope that employers not only take note of this study, but follow the suggestions of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to institute noise prevention programs to ensure the protection of employees' hearing. However, if this fails to happen and serious hearing injuries occur, workers should consider exploring their options as they relate to work comp benefits.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, "Loud noise may raise risk for workplace injuries," Shereen Jegtvig, April 2, 2014

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