Hearing protection - Hearing Awareness Week - 23rd to 29th August

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- By:

Courtesy of Queensland Laboratory

Who is responsible?

Workplace/Occupational Health & Safety legislation in each State and Territory outline the responsibilities of individuals with regard to the management and control of Workplace Noise. Generally speaking the responsibility is placed on the owners of the workplace, the employer, and management of a particular site. Employees also have certain responsibilities.

Employers and self-employed persons must manage the risk from worker exposure to noise in the workplace to prevent serious hearing damage/loss.

The following issues are some of the issues that need to be considered to manage the risk when people are exposed noise in the workplace:

* Assessing the level of noise
* Controlling the exposure
* Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
* Reviewing health and exposure
* Recording risks and
* Training workers on selection and use of PPE

Workers must:

* use personal protective equipment (PPE) where it has been supplied by the employer and in the correct manner
* follow instructions given to ensure health and safety
* not wilfully misuse anything provided by the employer to ensure health and safety.

If the workplace has a Workplace Health and Safety Committee, the committee can assist the employer to plan, implement and monitor measures to reduce the exposure to noise in the workplace.

When should you use hearing protection?

Using hearing protection is one way of reducing noise exposure if other means do not adequately reduce noise levels. Hearing protection only works if worn correctly and used for the full period of exposure.

Hearing protection should be worn when using:

* Firearms - the hearing protection should have a suitable class or SLC80 rating (SLC rating described below).

* Noisy equipment - ensure earplugs or muffs are kept near noisy equipment, to remind those operating the machinery to wear the hearing protection. For example, place them in a tractor cab, near a chainsaw or rifle and display signs near equipment. If accessing hearing protection near machinery that is in operation, take into consideration the noise levels.

How do you choose hearing protection?

* Ensure hearing protection is comfortable, effective and suitable for the job.
* You should always try earmuffs before buying to ensure they are comfortable and that the seal around the ear is adequate.
* Hearing protection must meet AS 1270 and be suitable for the work being undertaken.
* The effect of a hearing protector should be similar to cupping your hands tightly over your ears.
* General purpose earmuffs for the farm will have a Class 3 or 4 rating, or an SLC80 rating between 18 and 25 dB. The 'SLC80' figure stands for Sound Level Conversion valid for 80 per cent of wearers, and indicates the noise level reduction in decibels expected when the protectors are worn correctly.
* For some farm equipment and firing firearms, hearing protectors with a Class 5 rating or SLC80 of 30 or greater are required to provide protection.
* Suppliers and manufacturers should be able to provide information on the most suitable hearing protection for the equipment used and tasks undertaken.

How do you maintain hearing protection?

* Earmuffs and reusable earplugs should be cleaned with lukewarm soapy water, dried and stored in an airtight container when not in use, for personal hygiene reasons.
* Damaged or defective protectors will not give full protection.
* Read instructions carefully on how to insert earplugs and wear all hearing protection in accordance with the manufacturer's advice. Disposable earplugs should not be reused.

How serious is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is permanent as there is no cure. Noise-induced hearing loss usually develops slowly over several years so you do not realise there is a problem until it is too late. When using firearms, if proper protection is not used, hearing loss can happen after a few shots. Repeated exposure to excessive noise will eventually lead to permanent hearing loss and may also create health problems such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, heart disease and stress.

Source:

Workplace Health & Safety Queensland www.deir.qld.gov.au
Queensland Laboratory - Hearing Awareness Module 1 www.queenslandlab.com

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