U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Hot Work
Hazard: Repeated Trauma
A worker who had been welding for 15 years and whose assignments routinely required him to work in different locations, sometimes on board vessels and at other times in support shops, was found to have significant hearing loss. Although the worker knew that he sometimes worked in noisy areas he had always assumed that because he was not assigned to the area permanently, he would not need to comply with the hearing protection signs, or be concerned about the noise being produced by the chipping hammers or grinders being operated nearby. Nor would he need to be concerned about the noise being produced by the arc welding process itself. Believing that he did not have a problem, he continually ignored the post cards from the medical department each year scheduling him for a hearing exam. Not until he began routinely having trouble understanding spoken words did he have his hearing checked. This could have been prevented.
Minimum Effort - Great Results
Analysis and Preventive Measures
Although modern tools and fabrication techniques have contributed to overall workplace noise reduction, the noise generated in shipyard operations is often significant. While the worker was not routinely exposed to a single noise source for an extended period, the various work going on around him from day to day often produced significantly high noise levels. For example, a chipping hammer or grinder will routinely produce noise levels in excess of 100 decibels.
Participation in the company's hearing conservation program could have detected any change in hearing ability early on so that permanent impairment may have been avoided. Follow-up procedures by the company's medical department would ensure that workers who are in the hearing conservation program have annual audiograms, are fitted or refitted with hearing protectors, and understand the importance of the various components of the program to prevent further hearing loss.