A comprehensive study by Access Economics found that the financial cost of hearing loss to the Australian economy was over $11 billion, or 1.4 per cent of GDP per annum. The biggest part of the cost is loss of productivity which is $6.7 billion, or 57 per cent. One in six Australians are affected by hearing loss and this is tipped to increase to one in four as the country’s population ages.
When it comes to the workplace, there is specific OHS legislation that must be adhered to by employers and employees in order to lessen the impact the high decibel environments have on an individual’s hearing. A Noise Survey can help you determine the levels of occupational noise exposure in your workplace. It can also identify those workers who may require audiometric testing.
Noise induced hearing loss is a significantly increasing cause of workers compensation claims.
Hearing loss at Work
Noisy work places provide many challenges for employers and employees.
From a safety perspective, being able to communicate clearly in noisy industrial environments is often difficult. This is because there are many physical and audible hazards that need to be taken into consideration.
These include heavy machinery noise, forklifts and other mobile equipment being used, and in some cases, ototoxic substances (e.g. toluene, styrene, xylene, some pesticides and heavy metals such as lead and mercury) that may pose an enhanced risk of hearing loss.
A study carried out by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EASHW), found that noise can cause many health and safety issues including:
- making it harder for workers to hear and correctly understand speech and signals
- masking the sound of approaching danger or warning signals (e.g. reversing signals on vehicles)
- distracting workers, such as drivers, and
- contributing to work-related stress that increases the cognitive load thereby increasing the likelihood of errors.
The EASHW report also stated, “Good speech communication requires a speech level at the ear of the listener that is at least 10 dB higher than the surrounding noise level”.
There is a national standard for occupational noise, which is “an eight-hour equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure level of 85 dB(A).