One-quarter of workers under 21 unprotected
New 2016 data from WorkSafeBC reveals young construction workers are less likely to wear hearing protection at work compared to other age groups in the same industry. They are also less likely to wear hearing protection compared to young workers in other industries, such as manufacturing and primary resources.
Among young construction workers, 24 per cent reported not wearing hearing protection, compared to 13 per cent of workers over the age of 50 and 11 per cent of workers in all other age groups. The data was collected in 2016 from more than 160,000 hearing tests conducted by British Columbia employers as part of hearing loss prevention programs.
“Noise-induced hearing loss needs to be taken very seriously,” said Sasha Brown, WorkSafeBC occupational audiologist. “It can be caused by a single exposure to loud noise or more typically by repeated exposures to consistent noise. While the damage may be painless, it is irreversible and may go unnoticed for years or even decades until it reaches a point where it has a significant effect on one’s quality of life.”
Employers are required to provide hearing loss prevention programs, monitor noise levels and conduct annual hearing tests for workers exposed to hazardous noise to prevent noise induced hearing loss and permanent hearing damage. All workers are responsible for wearing appropriate hearing protection and to take part in their employer’s hearing loss prevention program. Hazardous noise levels are defined as 85 decibels in the ‘A’ scale for eight hours or the equivalent, said WorkSafeBC.
Hearing loss can go unnoticed by a worker for years or even decades after the initial exposure or series of exposures. Since 2006 there have been more than 37,000 accepted claims for noise-induced hearing-loss in B.C.
“We want to raise the level of awareness among employers of the prevalence and seriousness of this occupational disease, as well as the need to have prevention programs and testing in place, so workers don’t have to live with its debilitating effects for the rest of their lives,” Brown said.