Loud noises can be very harmful for our health,...
causing long lasting negative effects on our hearing. Every day, millions of workers in Europe are exposed to noise in the workplace. This results in noise-induced hearing loss being amongst the most common reported occupational disease in the EU. As today marks the World Hearing Day, the European Safety Federation wishes to raise awareness on preventable hearing loss in workplace and how occupational health and safety measures can help protecting workers.
Exposed to loud noise or ototoxic chemicals are the main causes of occupational hearing loss. Specifically, exposure to loud noises is the second most common risk factor in the workplace (22% workplace related-health issues) and directly results in hearing loss. One in five of Europe’s workers has to raise their voices to be heard for at least half of the time that they are at work. There are many impacted sectors, from manufacturing, agriculture, construction to entertainment industry and other workplaces such as call centres, restaurants and clubs.
Raising awareness on occupational hearing loss can change lives, as this is a preventable condition, in fact one of the most preventable work-related ones. Conservation programmes for workers are there to protect: those programmes include monitoring noise levels, engineering and administrative measures to reduce noise exposure, personal hearing protective devices, hearing fit testing, medical surveillance and access to training.
The European Safety Federation is proud to represent the hearing protection sectors, as part of the PPE industry. When reducing noises' source is not possible or enough, the employers shall provide the employee the appropriate hearing protectors. For many workers across Europe, hearing protective equipment is an effective way to protect their ears. EU legislation protects workers exposed to noise: from an average daily noise exposure of 80 dB, the employer must provide effective hearing protection for workers. European standards also give an important contribution to help protecting workers, e.g. developing standards that provide a high level of safety for hearing protectors including conformity assessment methods for the integration of electronic communication facilities.
An increased awareness on the risks of unwanted noise and the evolutions in the market have led to the upgrade of the health and safety requirements to Category III in the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 for safe hearing protectors.
As for any legislation, effective implementation and correct enforcement is a key. On top of that, EU-OSHA and WHO could have an important role in promoting primary prevention, e.g. sharing good practices (i.e. training for hearing protectors' users and fit testing for improved wearability) across member states and help prevent occupational hearing loss.