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Workplace injuries: Hearing loss develops over time

Some industries are known for exposing workers to excessive noise levels. Hearing loss is similar to workplace injuries caused by repetitive stress in that it develops over time -- victims are often unaware of the problem until it gets severe. Oklahoma employers are responsible for protecting employees from harm by complying with the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and providing the appropriate protective equipment.

Sources of dangerous noise levels exist in most industrial facilities, as well as in construction and other occupations. To determine the need for ear protection, advisors say that if one person cannot hear what another person says who is standing an arm's length away, the noise level is likely above the prescribed 85-decibel limit. However, some workers feel earplugs can put them in harm's way.

An example is a jackhammer operator wearing earplugs that protect his ears but prevent him from hearing approaching vehicles or other threats. For that reason, it is important to have a safety plan in place that will include other workers who can keep a lookout for hazards that could threaten the worker wearing ear protection. Other safety precautions include putting up a barricade around an employee who works in an area where there is a danger of moving vehicles.

The choice is between not being able to hear for the duration of the noisy job and the total loss of hearing. For workers who are frequently exposed to excessive noise levels, the latter can be the outcome if they are not issued with ear protection. Although the Oklahoma workers' compensation insurance program regards hearing loss as workplace injuries, such benefits claims can prove to be complicated because the condition develops over the years. The most logical step might be to consult with an attorney who is experienced in representing employees with occupational hearing loss.

Source: rentalpulse.com, "Safety Tip: Using ear protection", Accessed on Aug. 21, 2017

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