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Ear Protection Can Increase the Risk of Workplace Accidents

Using ear protection in the workplace reduces auditory awareness significantly.

Work Injury Attorney

Many industries and working environments expose employees to high levels of noise. Continuous exposure to high levels of noise can cause a number of hearing related disabilities, including total loss of hearing.

It is thus essential that employees working in workplace environments that have high level of noise are provided with personal protection equipment like ear plugs or earmuffs by their employers. However, using ear protection can sometimes increase the risk of accidents.

Measuring Noise Levels

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determines noise level up to 85dBA as the safe limit, while anything more can be considered as hazardous. However, it is difficult to measure these noise levels every time without any measurement instruments. Therefore, should employees judge any noise at the workplace as hazardous?

A simple test is the answer. Whether the noise levels are likely to be hazardous or not can be judged if two co-workers standing at a distance of an arm’s length between them, cannot hear each other without having to raise their voices over the surrounding noise. In such surroundings, usage of ear protection is warranted.

The Double Edged Sword

Protective equipment will reduce the level of noise exposure and safeguard workers from hearing related injuries, however, they can pose another risk to workers. This is the risk of being unable to hear other hazards that are found in the workplace. Using ear protection reduces auditory awareness significantly.

The inability of workers to be aware of their surroundings while using ear protection can expose them to other surrounding workplace hazards that can be life threatening. For example, a worker using ear protection while working in a manufacturing unit that runs noisy machinery, might not be able to hear a huge loading truck approaching and get run over. Therefore using ear protection against excessive noise levels can prove to be a double-edged sword.

Protecting Oneself

It is mandated by law that all employers should strictly adhere to safety regulations set to protect against workplace hazards and prevent workplace related injuries. Therefore employees should, before they put on their ear plugs and muffs, make a note of their surroundings and set up safeguards. Letting a co-worker in the vicinity know that they will be using ear plugs and will be unable to hear, is prudent. The co-worker can warn them of any approaching danger.

Another option would be for employers to create separate working spaces that are closed off with a caution tape for workers who are using ear protection.

Claiming Compensation for Injuries

Any injury caused to workers due to their inability to hear approaching dangers while using ear protection, entitles them to receive workers compensation and benefits. Moreover, hearing loss is a disability that has no specific time and date of occurrence. It can be a gradual loss of hearing over a period of time. Therefore proving that the injury was work related can be a challenge for many and deter them from filing a compensation claim on their own.

If you or a loved one have suffered hearing loss or any other workplace injury, contact the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann. For more than 20 years we have been helping injured workers in and around St. Louis receive the benefits they need and deserve.

Call us today at (314) 361-4300 or fill out our online contact form to request a free consultation.



Updated: August 28, 2017