Did you know that around 1 million Australians are estimated have exposure to dangerous noise levels in their workplaceNS1 ?
If you do work in or run a noise-driven workplace, here are some common problems that can arise from excessive and loud noise – and what you can potentially do to combat these issues and create a healthier and safer work environment.
Noise-induced hearing loss is the most obvious issue that can arise in a noisy workplace. According to Safework Australia, “sound and pressure was the stated cause for over 96% of workers’ compensation claimsNS1 for hearing loss in 2001/2.”
In noisy environments, loud noises can damage delicate hair cells in the cochlea and inner ear that need to pass auditory indicators to the brain. Once these hair cells are damaged or destroyed, there is no medical way to restore them. This damage is what causes hearing loss.
Hearing loss is often associated with industries like construction, music/recording, factory, road/air transport, rural and farming, military/police, mining and industrial operations, among others.
Tinnitus is an ear condition that involves a ringing, buzzing, whistling or similar noise in the ear. It can occur in one ear or both ears and can often be the result of excessive and constant noise.
While there are several treatments for tinnitus, the condition is ultimately incurable. It can lead to other problems, such as stress, frustration, poor concentration, insomnia and of course, hearing loss and deafness.
Contact with loud or ongoing noise can also lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and an increased resting heart rate in some workers. The change in bodily function is due to our standard, neurological and hormonal responses to loud sounds.
High blood pressure and increased heart rates can also cause other cardiovascular problems that may impact the healthiness of the heart.
While sensitivity may differ between individual workers, noisy environments can also cause a range of other physiological and psychological problems, including:
Loud noises in the workplace can serve to heighten workplace stress, meaning workers can become irritable and tense and hence are less likely to be able to concentrate properly.
Noise-filled settings in the workplace can also mean an increased risk of accidents since noise will often “cancel out” any sounds that could warn workers of an impending or current emergency.
Noise can also make regular communication (i.e. speaking, instructing) quite tricky and means that workers will have to shout or communicate in other ways. The additional noise can lead to a significant loss in communication, resulting in reduced productivity and a higher risk of dangers or of not responding to hazards immediately.
Protecting individuals in noisy workplaces is primarily the responsibility of the OHS manager. You can help to protect your workers by carrying out one or more of the following:
Protecting the health and safety of your workers is of utmost importance in any workplace. Remember to make sure your noise levels fall within the Australian National Code of Practice for Noise Management.
As this article has highlighted, there are many dangers workers face daily in Australia’s industrial sector. One of the most ignored or downplayed dangers – high noise levels – is also the most common injury in the workplace. Download our eBook hearing the issues to learn more about industrial deafness.