Health and Safety
Preventing noise-induced hearing loss in forestry
By Budd Philips
June 9, 2017 - WorkSafeBC data collected by employers in 2015 from more than 150,000 hearing tests of workers in all industries in B.C. shows noise-induced hearing loss is trending upwards among forestry workers – increasing from 11 to 20 per cent between 1995 and 2015.
By Budd Philips
Noise can pose serious health and safety issues, such as noise-induced hearing loss, for all workers including those in forestry. Over time, if noise from machinery, processes and equipment is too loud, permanent hearing loss can result in workers who aren’t wearing appropriate hearing protection. Since 2006, WorkSafeBC has accepted more than 37,000 claims for noise-induced hearing loss across all industries.
Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a single exposure to loud noise or, more typically, by repeated exposure to moderately-loud noise. For example, a manual faller exposed to noise at 103 decibels can work for up to seven-and-a-half minutes before the noise level becomes hazardous; by comparison, regular exposure to sounds louder than 85 decibels can also cause permanent hearing loss if a worker isn’t wearing proper hearing protection. While the damage may be painless, it is irreversible and may go unnoticed for years or even decades.
The Canadian Standards Association rates hearing protection as Class A, B or C, depending on how much noise reduction the protection provides. The recommended hearing protection for eight hours of exposure is as follows: Class C hearing protection for exposure less than 90 decibels, Class B for exposure between 90 and 95 decibels, Class A for exposure between 95 and 105 decibels, and dual hearing protection – a minimum of a Class B earmuff and a Class A earplug – for exposure of 105 decibels or greater.
Under B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and guidelines, employers are required to monitor noise levels, conduct annual hearing tests and provide hearing-loss prevention programs for workers exposed to hazardous noise. Workers are responsible for wearing appropriate hearing protection and taking part in their employer’s hearing-loss prevention program.
A hearing-conservation program should be reviewed annually and include six basic components:
- Noise-exposure measurements
- Education and training for workers on the risks of noise and proper use and maintenance of hearing protection
- Engineered noise controls
- Hearing-protection devices in a variety of sizes and styles
- Hazard awareness, such as warning signs at the worksite
- Hearing tests for workers
WorkSafeBC has online resources for workers and employers to assist in understanding and preventing noise-induced hearing loss, including a downloadable guide: Sound Advice: a Guide to Hearing Loss Prevention, a forestry-specific bulletin, How Loud is it? and a pamphlet, Hear for Good: Preventing Noise Exposure at Work.
For more information, visit www.worksafebc.com
Budd Philips is the Manager Prevention Field Services for WorkSafeBC.