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OSHA initiative seeks to protect manufacturing workers in Midwest facilities from hazardous noise levels

CHICAGO ‒ Nearly one in 10 people endure noise levels at work loud enough to cause hearing loss while seven in 10 experience moderately loud noise levels, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, the bureau’s Occupational Requirements Survey, published in 2019, found that more than half of the nation’s manufacturing workers reported not using personal protective equipment to protect their hearing.

To reduce these workplace dangers and promote hearing conservation programs, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration regional office in Chicago has established a Regional Emphasis Program to raise awareness among Midwest manufacturing employers.

By law, OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program when the average noise exposure over eight working hours reaches or exceeds 85 decibels, which the Centers for Disease Control compares to the sound of city traffic (from inside the vehicle) or a gas-powered leaf blower. To prevent noise-induced hearing loss, OSHA provides employers with hearing conservation guidelines.

The REP’s initial phase will include informational mailings to employers, professional associations, local safety councils, apprenticeship programs, local hospitals and occupational health clinics, and OSHA presentations to industry organizations and stakeholders. OSHA will also encourage employers to use the agency’s free consultation services to help them implement noise safety strategies and ensure compliance with OSHA standards.

“Earning a living should not come at the expense of hearing loss,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Hearing conservation programs are designed to prevent workplace hearing loss, protect remaining hearing, and provide employers and workers with the knowledge and equipment to control and reduce exposure to noise.”

OSHA encourages employers to take steps to identify, reduce and eliminate hazards related to high levels of noise during the REP’s initial phase. Following its three-month outreach, that began June 1, 2021, the REP empowers OSHA to schedule and inspect select manufacturing industries in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin with hearing loss rates higher than the national average.

Learn more about OSHA.

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