This week, OSHA announced fines against a West Virginia business for, among other fines, worker exposure to noise hazards. According to OSHA’s Web page on Noise and Hearing Conservation, “Every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise.” The consequences of that exposure can have lasting effects.
My father, a former Michigan State Police officer, had a great story about the day he realized he had a significant hearing loss. On that day, he responded to a call, along with several other officers, that a man was holed up in a house with a gun and was threatening others.
The officers blocked off the streets and surrounded the house. My father went around to the back of the property and began slowly crawling his way up to the back of the house. By the time he got to the back door, the officers who had entered from the front of the house had taken the man in custody.
As the gunman was taken away, the other officers swarmed around my Dad, slapping him on the back, congratulating him for his bravery. My dad was confused since the ordeal was over by the time he reached the house. Then one of the officers asked my dad why he had continued to advance on the house while the armed man was shooting at him? (The gunman’s focus on my father had allowed the other officers to overtake him.)
“Shooting? He was shooting at me?” my father asked? The other officers laughed and went on their way. My dad, on the other hand, who had never heard a single shot, made an appointment that day to get his hearing tested. His hearing aids arrived a couple of weeks later, he was in his thirties.
As he looked back over his time in law enforcement and the Marines, as well as, the personal choices he’d made regarding the volume of music he listened to, my dad identified several choices he had made, as well as working conditions he was subjected to, that led to his severe hearing loss at a young age.
One example of a poor choice was at the shooting range, in the Marines as well as the police academy, where instead of wearing ear protectors, my dad and other participants would stick spent cartridges in their ears to muffle the sound. Unfortunately, not only did the shells not protect his hearing, they probably did more harm than good. Another example of a damaging choice was the loud music he listened to starting in his teens.
Given another chance, he said he would have made different choices along the way. His hearing loss had a profound effect on him and on his relationships with others. In his younger days, taking simple steps to protect his hearing seemed like overkill. In the end, all the time he had saved not doing things the right way was spent cupping his hand to his ear and asking people to repeat what they said one more time.
This week, we’re encouraging you take my father’s advice and take care of your hearing and that of your employees. Our course, Hearing Conservation, can help.
Hearing Conservation provides training to help employees prevent noise-induced hearing loss. It also explains the purpose and components of a Hearing Conservation Program. Primary Regs: OSHA 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure.
Call 1.888.362.2007, or visit Workplace Safety Training for information about our on-demand training offering, including a list of available courses. If you’re interested in an option that does not require all employees to be present at the same time, you can take a pass on a classroom style format and consider an online solution.