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NIOSH Study Links Impacts of Workplace Noise, Heart Health

By Christine Torres

noise hazard warning floor tape

Excessive noise at work not only effects a worker’s hearing, but also shows that it might be contributing to some heart ailments, according to a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). After conducting a thorough investigation and interviewing workers of all work backgrounds and exposures relating to hearing, scientist said they were able to draw their conclusion. The results show that workers with a lifelong occupational noise exposure are more likely to develop hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and hearing difficulty. Reducing or managing workplace noise levels can prevent hearing loss, and now, may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol.

Noise Hazards

For years, workplace noise has been a hazard for hearing, with more than 22 million workers exposed to potentially damaging noise risk, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. About $242 million is spent each year on compensating those whose work conditions have caused hearing loss.

“Reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention—it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol," says Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH. "Worksite health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers."

Ensure compliance with noise legislation and help with hearing loss prevention. The legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace are set through OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure in regulation 1910.95. Based on a worker's time-weighted average over an 8 hour day, 1910.95(c)(1) states that the employer must administer a continuing, effective hearing conservation program.

AED floor tape and identification signs

Workplace noise is a problem when:

  • A worker’s ears ring after leaving work.
  • A worker feels the need to shout to be heard by someone close by.
  • A worker has temporary hearing loss or a feeling of ears being “stuffy” after work.

Managing Noise Exposure

Reduce noise hazards with low-decibel tools and machines for engineering controls and implement administrative controls to help reduce or eliminate exposing workers to too many or unnecessary noises. Make sure hearing personal protective equipment are available and organized by their noise reduction rating. Install visual communication tools using a variety of hearing protection labels and signs. Provide affected employees with training and information so that they are aware of the hazards from excessive noise exposure and mark pedestrian paths away from areas that have a high level of noise. Maintain records regarding monitoring and noise sampling, and provide workers with access to those records. Take safety even further by ensuring equipment stations such as first-aid kits and automated external defibrillators (AED) are marked clearly for quick identification using signs, labels, and floor tape.

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