The reality is that many skilled tradespeople develop Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) among numerous other ailments. Exposure to excessive noise levels can cause irreparable damage, and oftentimes it’s very difficult to avoid. In all industry, hearing loss is by far the occupational disease with the highest number of insurance claims. The WSIB stats show that in Ontario alone, approximately 5,000 claims relating to NIHL are filed each year. In the UK they account for 75% of all occupational disease claims. The difficulty with hearing loss and deafness is that is takes a long time to develop, and is typically only noticed as one ages. Some degree of it can occur naturally, but it can become apparent later in life that much of it will have been noise-induced.
WSIB and other like-minded organisations claim that occupational NIHL is entirely preventable, and they then provide us with this noise chart along with some recommendations and tips. By reducing the source of noise, WSIB says, NIHL will probably not be a problem for you. Gee, thanks WSIB. The only problem is that some of us need to actually make some money, and the way we do that is by working. With loud tools. And sure, I’ll get right on hiring a “Noise Consultant” as you recommend…NOT! While I’d love to, presumably this is only a real and true option for some employees, not the multitudes of us who are self-employed. And I’d really question how many employees actually get to use such a resource.
While I find the chart interesting, particularly the noise rankings of various tools and equipment, I don’t find it especially helpful. I suppose there’s nothing any organisation can really do for this issue – it is too gradual, difficult to identify specific causes, and challenging to control, to say the least. To each their own on this one. It’s likely most of us will not be hiring a “Noise Consultant” any time soon, one who will probably tell us to put the CNC press brake in another room, or not to bang metal to metal (seriously, WHAT could they possibly recommend? We’re Tin Bashers for Christ’s sake!). But I’d hazard a guess that the next best thing is to make sure you buy, use, and wear your earplugs! There. I just saved you 500 bucks for a visit from the Noise Consultant.
In all honesty, there’s some good information out there, but like most things, it’s not especially practical. Most of us need to organise our priorities for the day, bang out the jobs as efficiently as possible, and make a living. I do think about aging, chemical inhalations, and hearing loss from time-to-time, but it isn’t upfront and centre in my mind all the time. Maybe I’m still just too young.
P.S. Kinda sorry for the “What What” sound byte from Archer – that’s gonna be in your head forever now.
P.P.S. We love Archer!