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How can employers protect workers from loud noise?

When it comes to protecting workers, Minnesota employers should not neglect the issue of workplace noise. While some jobs do not feature loud work environments, industries like construction, manufacturing and maintenance do produce a lot of noise that can damage the hearing of workers. While workplace noise can be reduced by administrative or mechanical means, it is not always possible, so employers should take steps to protect their workers.

Occupational Health and Safety advises employers to equip workers with the proper protection gear. Sometimes ear plugs will be sufficient. In workplaces where there is a lot of low frequency sounds, a worker can put on a pair of ear muffs. Simple gear like muffs and plugs are easy to take out and are convenient for the worker. Sometimes, however, stronger and more elaborate head protection gear is needed.

Any employer should keep in mind that the wrong protection can make it hard for workers to function. Common complaints about hearing protection gear include the following:

  • The gear causes discomfort
  • The gear is too hot
  • Wearing the gear causes aches in the ear or headaches
  • The worker cannot hear fellow workers
  • The gear obstructs the sounds of sirens or alerts

If your workers have these problems, it is crucial to address them early on. An employer should balance the protection of the hearing of their workers with their ability to function and perceive outside stimuli. This may involve training employees to use the gear right, or to employ the right gear for the right work situation.

Instituting checks of compliance with the hearing gear can also weed out potential problems. You might find your workers are making mistakes handling the gear. Also, the ear protection could be interacting poorly with other protective gear, like eye glasses or welding hoods. Swapping out the ear protection gear for different devices may be necessary.

This article is not written to provide any legal advice. It is intended to educate readers on workplace safety issues.

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