Earthmoving News, Workplace Health & Safety

SafeWork SA launches hearing loss campaign

SafeWork SA has launched a campaign targeting the risks associated with working in noisy environments

SafeWork SA’s six-month campaign will raise awareness of noise-related risks and include compliance audits across manufacturing, warehousing, transport, construction and mining industries.

With the audits already commencing in the month of April, SafeWork SA inspectors are assessing how noise is being managed to prevent hearing loss of workers, in accordance with the work health and safety regulations. This includes who and when hearing tests are required.

Inspectors will issue authorised notices to businesses where non-compliance has been identified.

“The rising trend in occupational noise induced hearing loss claims suggests that more can be done to prevent harm,” SafeWork SA executive director Glenn Farrell says.

“We hope that by running this campaign, the awareness of the issue and measures to manage the risks of noise exposure will be raised and greater compliance will be observed.”

SafeWork SA says noise exposure is the most common preventable cause of occupational hearing loss, and once someone loses their hearing, it is irreversible.

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Work injury insurance provider Return To Work SA, has recently seen an increase in the number of claims for work-related noise-induced hearing loss, according to a SafeWork SA spokesperson.

“Businesses should be conducting their own audits to assess whether or not they are complying with the requirements of WHS regulations and whether they have systems in place for managing high levels of noise,” SafeWork SA says.

“This should also include looking at ways to minimise noise exposure and conduct regular health monitoring of workers who are required to frequently wear hearing protection for exposure to noise which exceeds the exposure standard.”

Construction sites contain many sources of loud noise, such as power tools like jackhammers and drills, diesel powered generators and mobile plant with alarms, which can all contribute to harmful noise exposure.

While long-term exposure to noise might seem harmful to just hearing, it can also increase blood pressure, heart rate and stress, according to SafeWork SA. Other physical symptoms include reduced concentration, insomnia and changes to hormone, cholesterol and stomach acid levels.

On the back of research, SafeWork SA says exposure to noisy work sites is also associated with risks of accidents – workers with hearing loss greater than 15dB are three times more likely to be at risk of multiple accidents.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations 2012 (SA), businesses must provide audiometric (hearing) testing for a worker if they are required to frequently use personal hearing protectors as a control measure for noise that exceeds the exposure standard. This testing must take place within the first three months of their employment and then every two years.

Without these tests, SafeWork SA says it is difficult for employers to determine if systems put in place to combat noise exposure are working.

For more information about managing noise in the workplace and how you can protect yourself from hearing loss, visit www.safework.sa.gov.au

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