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Published Monday, 8th September 2014

Occupational hearing loss, or damage to hearing in a work environment, can occur from exposure to very loud noise for a short time or prolonged exposure to moderate noise levels.  

Some factors, such as exposure to toxic substances or mechanical vibration, may interact with noise exposure to produce hearing loss that is greater than that associated with the combined effects of the individual causes.

A combined exposure to noise and hand-arm vibration (HAV) increases the risk of noise-induced hearing loss2.  Therefore, an employee working with mechanically vibrating tools and machinery in a noisy environment has an increased risk of hearing loss and has a lower maximum daily occupational noise exposure limit than the eight-hour equivalent level of 85 dB.

The preferred solution to a combined exposure to noise and hand-arm vibration is to completely eliminate the source of the loud noise, the vibration or both.  When this is not possible or practical, the legal requirement is to minimise exposure through a hierarchy of controls such as the following1:

  • Substitute the noise or vibration source with machinery or processes that are quieter or produce less mechanical vibration;
  • Isolate the noise or vibration source from workers;
  • Apply engineering solutions (e.g. fit mufflers, redesign the noise or vibration source, install noise guards, enclosures or vibration dampeners);
  • Apply administrative solutions (e.g. schedule noisy work for when fewest workers are present, provide signs, quiet areas for breaks and restrictions on the amount of time a worker is exposed to mechanical vibration), and when none of the above are reasonably practicable;
  • Provide personal hearing protectors or (e.g. ear muffs, ear plugs, gel gloves).

KINNECT can provide audiometry and hearing loss testing in the following cities:

  • Brisbane
  • Perth, WA
  • Sydney, NSW
  • Melbourne, VIC
  • Darwin, NT
  • Adelaide, SA
  • Canberra, ACT
  • Mackay, QLD
  • Townsville, QLD
  • Gladstone, QLD
  • Rockhampton, QLD
  • Sunshine Coast, QLD
  • Gold Coast, QLD
  • Cairns, QLD
  • Emerald, QLD
  • Geraldton, WA
  • Karratha, WA
  • Newman, WA
  • Port Headland, WA
  • Mandurah, WA
  • Albany, WA
  • Broome, WA
  • Dubbo, NSW
  • Tamworth, NSW
  • Gunnedah, NSW
  • Dalby, NSW
  • Moranbah, QLD
  • Roma, QLD
  • Singleton, NSW
  • Woolloongong, NSW
  • Lismore, NSW
  • Orange, NSW
  • Mount Isa, QLD
  • Maryborough, QLD
  • Bundaberg, QLD
  • Kingaroy, QLD
  • Glenden, QLD
  • Cannonvale, QLD
  • Gympie, QLD
  • Toowoomba, QLD
  • Port Macquarie, NSW
  • Taree, NSW
  • Wagga Wagga, NSW
  • Geelong, VIC
  • Blackburn, VIC
  • Bendigo, VIC
  • Morwell, VIC
  • Portland, WA
  • Hobart, TAS
  • Burnie, TAS
  • Devonport, TAS

References:

  1. Safe Work Australia (2010) Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss In Australia: Overcoming barriers to effective noise control and hearing loss prevention.
  2. Pettersson H, Burström L, Hagberg M, Lundström R, Nilsson T. Noise and hand-arm vibration exposure in relation to the risk of hearing loss. Noise Health 2012;14:159-65

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