Machine shops in manufacturing facilities nationwide, including Illinois, typically expose workers to high levels of noise. A hearing-related workplace injury may develop gradually, and by the time it becomes evident, proving it to be work-related might be challenging. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to inform workers of the hazards they will face, and also protect them from harm by providing personal protective equipment, including hearing protection.
Workers in manufacturing plants are typically exposed to noise levels that exceed 95 decibels, and when such exposure lasts for four hours or longer, those who do not wear hearing protection can suffer irreversible hearing loss. Safety authorities say even escalations of one or two decibels can significantly increase the danger levels of occupational noise. With the increase of every decibel, the time before damage starts is reduced, so much so that when noise levels rise from 95 to 97 decibels, the exposure time decreases by one hour.
Occupational hearing loss can not only prevent the worker from hearing regular conversations but also instructions, warnings and sounds that indicate imminent danger in a machine shop. Another long term consequence is tinnitus, which is a constant high-frequency ringing in the ears that becomes an irritating part of life that is always there. Even prolonged, very low-frequency sounds are damaging because they cause nausea and disorientation.
A victim of a hearing-related workplace injury might be eligible for benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages and other applicable compensation through the Illinois workers’ compensation insurance program. However, because the gradual hearing loss has no start date, the claims process could be challenging. Fortunately, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can take over and navigate the administrative and legal proceedings in pursuit of maximum benefits.