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Noise, or undesirable sound, is one of the most common health problems to be in many workplaces.

Continued exposure to more than 85 decibels (dBA) of noise may cause gradual but permanent damage to hearing. Noise can also be detrimental to job performance, increase fatigue, and cause irritability. Exposure to high levels of noise causes hearing loss and can lead to other harmful health effect as well. Perhaps the most widely known detrimental effect of noise is noise-induced hearing loss. Such losses can be either temporary or permanent; the extent of the damage is dependent mainly upon the intensity and duration of exposure.

Some of the occupations OSHA has identified as being at high risk of hearing loss are:
- Firefighters and other first responders
- Military personnel
- Disc jockeys
- Subway workers
- Construction workers
- Musicians
- Factory workers
- Mine workers

Those categories might not come as a surprise, but they do serve to illustrate the range of jobs that routinely involve exposure to high and potentially damaging levels of noise.

Practically all companies directly involved in manufacturing, construction, or mining create noise as a by- product. While it cannot be totally eliminated, the negative health effects of noise can be limited by wearing the proper personal protective equipment and, in some instances, implementing engineering and/or administrative controls.

In the early 1980s, OSHA announced a hearing conservation amendment (29 CFR 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure Standard) that requires hearing conservation programs for all employees exposed to noise on an eight-hour, time weighted average (TWA) in excess of 85 decibels measured on an A-weighted scale (85 dBA). The permissible exposure limit is 90 dBA for an eight-hour TWA.

The first move toward protecting your employees’ hearing is to establish a hearing conservation program. Such a program includes provisions for measuring noise, implementing engineering and/or administrative controls of noise, conducting hearing tests for individual employees, and supplying the proper personal hearing protectors as needed.

OSHA requires a five-part minimum hearing conservation program for industry. It includes:
-Noise Monitoring: Sound levels must be measured to determine what safeguards are needed.
-Hearing Testing: All employees in a hearing conservation program must be tested annually.
-Employee Training and Education: Employees in a hearing conservation program must be trained every year on hearing protection.
-Hearing Protectors: Hearing protection devices should be made available to all employees according to the noise risks identified.
-Record Keeping: A company must maintain records on sound level results, equipment calibration results, and hearing test records of employees, along with its educational activities.

A noise survey of the workplace environment can be used to map what areas are most prone to noise, leading to a more efficient hearing conservation program. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. can provide this service and help identify employees who need to be included in the noise control program. The results can be used to determine if an initial cost of engineering controls is a prudent investment in comparison to the ongoing costs of hearing conservation program management for your organization –helping you make decisions that are safe for sound.

Tagged in: noise measurement OSHA

In a speech that called for a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances, OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said the current chemical exposure standards set by the agency are “dangerously out of date and do not protect workers.”

The dialogue will center on OSHA’s PELs – the regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air – meant to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

OSHA has said that 95 percent of its current PELs have not been updated since they were adopted in 1971. The agency’s current PELs cover fewer than 500 chemicals out of the tens of thousands used in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful.

Michaels said that the first step in the dialogue is the publication of a Request for Information in the Federal Register.

Read entire article - tps://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=3313

As calendar year 2015 comes to a close and 2016 begins, it’s a good time to look back on what is working and where there is room for improvement in terms of safety at the workplace.

New data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf) show mixed outcomes with respect to reducing the nation’s workplace injuries and illnesses as a whole. Though the overall numbers are down from 2013, there was little or no decrease in 2014 in what the BLS lists as more serious injury cases.

According to the BLS, the rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2014 was 3.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers (measured as total recordable cases, or TRC). In 2013, the rate was 3.3. The rate has gone down each year of the last 12, with the exception of 2012, when it was unchanged.

The days away from work, the rate of job transfer or restriction cases that involve more serious injuries rate stayed the same at 1.7. Other recordable cases went down from 1.6 to 1.5.

Private industries that saw a reduction in TRC in 2014 were retail, health care and social assistance, and accommodation and food services.

The TRC was the highest (3.9) among mid-size private industry companies (those that employed 50 to 249 workers), and lowest (1.5) among small companies (defined as having fewer than 11 workers).

Most injuries (about 75%) happened in service industries, with 25% in good-producing industries. The latter accounted for 35.6% of all occupational illnesses in 2014.

Several industries showed TRC rates above the national average of 3.2. They were:
-State and local government: 5.0
-Education and health services: 4.2
-Manufacturing: 4.0
-Natural resources and mining: 3.8
-Construction: 3.6
-Trade, transportation and utilities: 3.6, and
-Leisure and hospitality: 3.6.

Among states for which statistics are available for 2014, TRC rate for private industry declined in 10 states and was mainly unchanged in 31 states and the District of Columbia compared to the previous year. The TRC rate was higher in 19 states than the national average, was lower in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and about the same as the national rate in 8 states

Tagged in: workplace safety

The association has submitted a letter of support for legislation H.R. 3384.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association has submitted a letter of support for H.R. 3384, the "Quiet Communities Act of 2015." This legislation would reestablish and reauthorize funding for EPA's Office of Noise Abatement and Control.
According to AIHA's news release, the letter focuses on a 2014 study that estimated more than 104 million individuals in the United States had annual noise exposures at a level that increased their risk of noise-induced hearing loss and other noise-related health effects, such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, stress, general annoyance, and impaired learning and concentration.

AIHA says that the new legislation will also provide support for two other objectives of the 1972 Noise Control Act, including establishing a means for effective coordination of federal research and activities in noise control and providing information to the public regarding the noise emission and reduction characteristics of consumer products.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/about-aiha/Press/2015PressReleases/Pages/AIHA-Submits-Letter-of-Support-for-Legislation-H.R.-3384.aspx

Tagged in: EPA noise measurement

A regulation to change how companies report injury data to OSHA appears to be edging toward reality. The rule as proposed would also make companies’ injury data available on a publicly searchable website.

The proposal (https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposed_data_form.html ) was announced two years ago, but it wasn’t until early October that OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” draft final rule arrived at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The National Law Review says this means “OSHA anticipates publication of this final rule very soon.” According to that publication, it could go into effect as soon as January 2016. Even if it doesn’t, putting it on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)’s desk increases the likelihood of the proposed rule taking effect before the close of 2016.

The rule would see several new electronic reporting requirements for companies:
-Establishments that are already required to keep injury and illness records and had 250 or more employees in the previous calendar year will have to electronically submit information from these records to OSHA on a quarterly basis.
-Establishments that are already required to keep injury and illness records and had 20 or more employees in the previous calendar year, and are in certain designated industries, will have to electronically submit the information from the OSHA annual summary Form 300A to OSHA.
-All employers who receive notification from OSHA will have to electronically submit specified information from their injury and illness records to OSHA.
The data OSHA collects that it intends to make public on its website may come from:
-All data fields from the OSHA Form 300A (Summary form)
-All data fields from the OSHA Form 300 (Log) with the exception of the employee’s name
-The data fields on the right side of the OSHA Form 301 (Incident report), such as the case number, date of injury or illness, time employee began work, time of event, what the employee was doing just before the incident occurred, what happened, what the injury or illness was, what object or substance directly harmed the employee, and the date of death if applicable.

Not surprisingly, there have been mixed reactions from industry and worker advocacy groups.
In its comments on the proposed rule, the National Association of Manufacturers has said that “without proper context, the raw data may result in unfair conclusions or judgments about a company or particular industry based on information that is not indicative of the actual safety record.”

Three weeks after the proposed rule was delivered to OIRA for review , another organization – the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First – had unveiled its own new website that identifies the biggest environmental/health/safety violators in the United States since 2010 (http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/violation-tracker). Its database includes penalties from EPA, OSHA and 11 other federal agencies that are involved with EHS issues.

Tagged in: OSHA

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