Hearing Loss Plagues Older Construction Workers

The damaging consequences of working in construction can accumulate on older workers. Older construction workers who suffer from hearing loss might also have problems with workplace safety. For example, if a worker can’t hear warnings or suffers from an undiagnosed hearing disability, their safety and the safety of coworkers could be compromised. Several independent studies bear this out.

Most recently, researchers at the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) reviewed Building Trades Medical Screening Program data from close to 20,000 workers who were employed at Department of Energy nuclear power sites. Their conclusions – published in June of 2018 – found that 58 percent of those surveyed had some form of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). And those who worked for more than 30 years were 400 percent more likely to experience NIHL than those with fewer than 10 years on the job.

According to the “Hearing Impairment among Noise-Exposed Workers” study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in March of that same year, NIHL is the most common of all workplace injuries. By the Center’s estimate, about 22 million workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work on an annual basis, and construction accounts for the second-highest prevalence of workers with a hearing impairment.

These numbers tell a simple tale. Every year, thousands of construction workers suffer from excessive noise exposure on the job site. NIHL impairs quality of life and increases the risk of injury when, for instance, a worker cannot hear approaching vehicles or warning signals, or has difficulty hearing fellow workers shout of sudden dangers on the jobsite.

The CDC’s study of hearing loss was performed between 2003 and 2012. It outlined the impact of hearing loss on quality of life as annual “disability-adjusted life years” (DALY). When the data was fully compiled, the CDC found that 16 percent of construction workers who were surveyed tested positive for an impairment, placing them in second place behind miners for risk of dangerous hearing loss. These numbers are nothing short of alarming.

In yet another study, by Research Scientists at the University of Washington, researchers explored the factors that lead to construction workers’ going progressively deaf due to long-term exposure to noise on construction sites. Prominent reasons in their findings included the following:

  • Various standards of acceptable noise levels by government agencies
  • The inherent and consistent noise on construction sites
  • Lack of noise-control devices on construction equipment
  • Lack of hearing health training on the job (such as how to properly use hearing protection)
  • Lack of understanding of the dangers of long-term exposure to noise by both contractors and managers.

NIHL is gradual and cumulative. The longer the exposure, the louder the noise, the closer the worker to the noise source … all of these factor into the incidence and severity of occupational hearing loss.

One very helpful solution to noise-induced hearing loss would be for contractors to look for useful mechanized construction equipment with effective noise controls. Also, though construction workers should also take responsibility for their hearing, it is also vital that contractors, trade union officials and on-site managers provide support and encouragement to their workers by making them aware of the dangers and providing remedies for NIHL.

If you have a question about any personal injury issue, or need the services of an accident attorney, the professionals at Kaplan Law are available for you to contact anytime.