The prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers in the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting (AFFH) sector is 15%, according to a new NIOSH study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. However, when researchers examined industries within the sector they found as many as 36%—or 1 in 3 noise-exposed workers—have hearing loss. This is the first study to estimate prevalence and risk for hearing loss for sub-sectors within the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting industry sector.
The industries within the AFFH sector with the highest number of noise-exposed workers who have hearing loss and an elevated risk of hearing loss include:
- Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest Products (36%), which entails growing trees for reforestation or gathering barks, gums, fibers, etc. from trees
- Timber Tract Operations (22%), which entails harvesting standing trees to make timber
- Fishing (19%), this study sample comprised workers fishing for finfish such as tuna, salmon, trout, etc.
Additionally, researchers found workers in the aquaculture (fish farms or hatcheries) and logging industries are at higher risk for hearing loss.
“While we found the overall prevalence of hearing loss in the AFFH sector to be less than all industries combined, which is 19%, our study shows there are many industries within the sector that have a large number of workers who have or are at high risk for hearing loss,” said Elizabeth Masterson, PhD, epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “Workers in the high-risk industries identified in this study would benefit from continued hearing conservation efforts.”
For the study, researchers examined the results of 17,299 hearing tests, or audiograms, from workers employed at 458 companies in the AFFH sector. Certified technicians conducted the hearing tests for workers exposed to high noise (≥85 dBA) between the years 2003 and 2012 and shared the results with the NIOSH Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project.
“Hazardous noise affects an estimated 22 million workers in the US and hearing loss from this workplace exposure is entirely preventable with the right strategies and technology such as controlling noise to safe levels, protecting employees through the use of personal protective equipment and monitoring workers for changes in their hearing levels,” said Dr. Masterson. The prevalence of hearing loss in the AFFH sector has declined since the 1980s, however, it remains one of the industrial sectors with the highest risk for hearing loss.
A second NIOSH study breaks down the prevalence of hearing loss experienced by workers in the Health Care and Social Assistance (HSA) sector. The overall prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers was found to be 19%, while some subsectors within the HSA had up to 31% prevalence of hearing loss. The study was published recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States. Although a smaller percentage of workers in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector are exposed to hazardous noise – unlike industries like Mining or Construction –NIOSH researchers found that some subsectors in the HSA had a higher than expected prevalence of hearing loss for an industry that has had assumed “low-exposure” to noise.
“This is the first known study to estimate and compare the prevalence of noise-exposed worker hearing loss by subsector within the HSA sector and we used audiograms from hundreds of US companies within this sector,” said Elizabeth Masterson, PhD, epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “High-risk industries for hearing loss exist within the Health Care and Social Assistance sector. Occupational hearing loss is entirely preventable.”
Most of the HSA subsector prevalence estimates ranged from 14% to 18%, but the Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories subsector had 31% prevalence and the Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners had a 24% prevalence. The Child Day Care Services subsector also had a 52% higher risk than the reference industry.
Further work is needed to identify the sources of noise exposure and protect worker hearing in the Health Care and Social Assistance Sector. Successful noise reduction measures have been documented in hospital settings, exposure to chemotherapy drugs can be better prevented and laboratories can be modified to reduce the level of noise. For general occupational hearing loss prevention, NIOSH recommends removing or reducing noise at the source, and when noise cannot be reduced to safe levels, implementing an effective hearing conservation program.
Charleston Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Charleston, SC, on March 19-21 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Jacksonville Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Jacksonville, FL, on March 27-29 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
New Orleans Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in New Orleans, LA, on April 3-5 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You: Field-based Respirable Crystalline Silica Monitoring
Worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS)—which can cause severe lung diseases—remains a major health concern in mining as well as in construction, oil & gas, and general industry. Having a quick, effective way to monitor RCS concentrations is crucial to combatting the potential negative effects of RCS exposure. Researchers and engineers in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Program are addressing this problem by developing a novel, field-based monitoring approach that enables dust samples to be analyzed for RCS right at the mine site in a few minutes.
NIOSH to Update Hazardous Drug List
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the availability for public comment a list of drugs proposed for placement on the NIOSH List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings.
Potentially hazardous drugs are those for which the manufacturer has provided special handling information intended to protect workers, or for which available toxicity information suggests that a drug may exhibit one of the types of toxicity in the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug. Drugs for which insufficient toxicity information is available and drugs for which the available information suggests no toxic effect or a toxic effect that does not meet the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug are not proposed for placement on the List and are not further considered. Drugs for which special handling information is available are published on the NIOSH website and proposed for placement on the list; these drugs are not further evaluated. Drugs for which the available information suggests that the drug exhibits one or more toxic effects that meet the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug are further evaluated to determine whether the drug should be proposed for placement on the list.
NIOSH sorts screened and evaluated drugs into the following categories:
- Category 1—Special handling information
- Category 2—Insufficient toxicity information available to meet the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug
- Category 3—Available information shows no toxic effect or shows a toxic effect that does not meet the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug
- Category 4—Available toxicity information demonstrates or supports a determination that the drug does not meet the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug
- Category 5—Available toxicity information demonstrates or supports a determination that the drug meets the NIOSH definition of a hazardous drug
Gallardo’s Construction Services Fined for Fall Hazards
OSHA has cited Manuel Gallardo, owner of Gallardo’s Construction Services, after inspectors observed employees exposed to fall hazards on six Chicago-area residential roofing projects between August and November 2017. The company faces $281,286 in proposed penalties.
Manuel Gallardo, whose business is based in Palatine, was cited for four willful and three repeated violations for failing to: install fall protection systems; ensure the use of protective devices; and train workers in fall protection hazards. OSHA also cited Gallardo for nine serious violations for allowing employees to use nail guns without eye protection, and failing to conduct jobsite inspections.
“Employers are required to provide safe workplaces for their employees,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s Chicago South Area Office Director. “This employer’s continual disregard of fall protection requirements is exposing employees to potentially serious injuries.”
ABC Polymer Industries Fined $195,144 Following Worker Fatality
OSHA has cited ABC Polymer Industries LLC, after an employee suffered fatal injuries when she was pulled into a plastics recycling machine. The company faces $195,144 in proposed penalties.
OSHA investigated the Helena plastics manufacturer following the August 2017 fatality. The employer received one willful citation for failing to provide machine guarding to protect employees from caught-in and amputation hazards. The employer was also cited for repeat, serious, and other-than-serious violations, including failing to evaluate all powered industrial trucks every three years; not having specific safety procedures to shut down or isolate stored energy; and failing to install a rail system on both sides of an open platform.
“Employers must comply with required safety and health standards to protect workers from exposure to hazards,” said OSHA Birmingham Area Office Director Ramona Morris. “This company’s failure to install machine guarding equipment has resulted in a preventable tragedy.”
New OSHA Tree Care Guidance
Earlier this month OSHA published a guidance document for the tree care industry Solutions for Tree Care Hazards. The publication addresses five major hazards for the tree care industry, including traffic control, chippers, aerial lifts, power lines and drop zones for falling objects.
The publication breaks each topic into risk factors and prevention tips and provides additional resources for each topic. For example, for aerial lifts, OSHA addresses major causes of injuries and fatalities from aerial lifts such as falls and electrocutions. Some of the prevention tips offered include:
- inspect the lift and worksite before each use
- set brakes when outriggers are used
- use wheel chocks on sloped surfaces
- use a body harness or a restraining belt with a lanyard attached to the bucket
- tie off to an approved anchor point and stand firmly on the bucket’s floor
Unlike some other industries, there is no specific OSHA standard that regulates employers in the tree care industry. Typically the general industry requirements under Part 1910 apply or OSHA uses the general duty clause, Section 5(a)(1), to enforce the ANSI Z133.1 requirements. Some state plans, like Maryland, however, have adopted Tree Care and Removal regulations.
Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™
NIOSH in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA), announced that the US Army’s Tactical Communications and Protective System (TCAPS) was the recipient of the 2018 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award™. The award was presented at the Annual Hearing Conservation Conference on February 16th in Orlando, Florida and celebrated 10 years of the Safe-in-Sound Award initiative.
Safe-in-Sound awards honor those that have contributed to the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus through effective practices or innovations directed to those who are exposed to noise at work. This year’s award recognizes the US Army’s TCAPS system for being successful in obtaining authority to evaluate and procure commercial off the shelf Hearing Protection Devices (HPDs) to designated Dismounted Infantry Soldiers. The program developed new and innovative procedures to procure, test, deliver and train users on new active hearing protection devices. The success of the TCAPS program represents a recognition by the Army of the importance of hearing protection and communication among the force.
“Along with celebrating the 10th year for the Safe-in-Sound awards, we look forward to honoring this year’s recipient,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The US Army’s Tactical Communications and Protective System has demonstrated initiative and innovation in developing and maintaining state-of-the-art hearing protection devices for Infantry Soldiers and leads the way in preventing work-related hearing loss.”
The new active hearing protection devices aim to maintain auditory situation awareness and provide protection from noise-induced hearing loss. Between January 2014 to June 2017, 15 Army Brigade Combat Teams benefited from TCAPS activities, and approximately 30,000 TCAPS Active Hearing Protection Devices have been assigned to designated Army Infantry Soldiers.
NIOSH recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace whenever possible and implementing an effective hearing loss prevention program in those situations where dangerous noise exposures have not yet been controlled or eliminated.
Workers in Entertainment Industry Protected by OSHA Alliance
OSHA, United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada, AFL-CIO, CLC (IATSE) recently renewed their alliance to protect the safety and health of workers in the entertainment industry.
During the five-year alliance, participants will provide USITT and IATSE members with information and educational resources that address fall, electrical, ergonomic, and other industry hazards. USITT and IATSE will also educate federal OSHA, State Plan, and consultation personnel on industry safety topics, including fall prevention, and the safe use of portable power distribution systems. In addition, participants will continue sharing information about OSHA rulemakings, enforcement initiatives, and outreach campaigns, such as the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, and the Safe + Sound Campaign for Safety and Health Programs.
USITT is a professional organization that provides development and networking opportunities to its members. IATSE is a labor union representing technicians, artisans, and craftspersons working in live theater, motion picture production, television broadcasting, and associated equipment and construction shops.
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