Program to Prevent Worker Hearing Loss


Nearly half of all construction workers suffer hearing loss—a permanent, but preventable illness—according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Construction worksites generate high levels of noise from power tools, compressors and heavy equipment.

NIOSH says it is common to see a 25-year-old construction worker with the hearing of a 50-year-old.

‘Buying Quiet’ Program

That’s why NIOSH says if companies incorporate so-called “Buy Quiet programs, they will help curb hearing loss among the nation’s workforce. The institute has developed a web resource to help.

The site demonstrates the benefits of a Buy Quiet program, explains how to establish such a program in the workplace, and offers a video and posters. For example, the site includes audio samples from two different saws performing the same task.

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NIOSH recommends that workers should not be exposed to noise at a level that amounts to more than 85 decibels (dBA) for eight hours.

The NIOSH site also offers resources for selecting tools and machinery designed to reduce noise.

The power tools database contains noise level data for a variety of common power tools, as well as links to the NIOSH Hearing Protector Compendium to assist employers and workers in choosing appropriate hearing protection.

Other Benefits

Choosing to buy quieter tools and equipment offers benefits on other levels as well, according to the institute.

It minimizes the impact of noise on communities; helps companies comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other noise regulations and requirements; and reduces the potential long-term costs of audiometric testing, personal protective equipment and workers' compensation.

Conservative estimates provide $100 per decibal of savings when purchasing the quieter product, NIOSH says.

Raising Awareness

NIOSH has partnered with its National Construction Center, CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training to raise awareness of the problem.

CPWR’s Construction Solutions website explains the hazard and provides information on a variety of solutions.

Moreover, CPWR offers a free, pocket-sized, water-resistant NOISE Hazard Alert  handout employers can use for a toolbox talk or safety class. Copies are available free, while supplies last, by contacting


Tagged categories: Construction; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; NIOSH; North America; Online tools; Paint application equipment; Regulations; Worker training; Workers

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