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Workplace noise safety

California workers don't tend to worry about the risks of noise exposure until noticeable signs of hearing loss have already occurred. This is problematic because hearing loss tends to be permanent and living with the debility can be extremely hindering.

The first step to avoiding hearing loss as a result of workplace noise exposure is to recognize when a work environment is overly noisy. Here are three signs:

-- After leaving work for the day, the worker notices humming or ringing in his or her ears.

-- Coworkers need to shout at each other to be heard, even if they're just an arm's length away from each other.

-- Temporary hearing loss is experienced immediately after work.

Another way to determine if noise is a problem at a workplace is to measure the A-weighted sound levels (dBA). With a special measuring instrument, workplace safety regulators can determine whether noise at a certain workplace exceeds the upper limitations allowed by law.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the permissible exposure limit is 90 dBA for 8-hours of work in one day. More noise can be endured if the work period is shortened. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an 8-hour workday should be limited to an upper ceiling of 85 dBA.

California workers who suffer hearing loss as a result of their job duties could lose the ability to carry on earning a living, and at the very least, they could incur stiff medical bills to pay for hearing assistance devices and other medical services related to their hearing loss. Fortunately, costs relating to hearing loss injuries like this will usually be covered by the injured employees' workers' compensation insurance.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Occupational Noise Exposure: Overview," accessed Nov. 17, 2016

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