October is Hearing Loss Prevention Month
October 1, 2018
October is National Protect Your Hearing Month, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The NIDCD also developed the Noisy Planet campaign to increase awareness among parents of children ages eight to 12 of noise-induced hearing loss. However, children are not the only ones at risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels each year.
Occupational Hearing Loss
Workers in the construction, farming, manufacturing, trucking and other industries are exposed to loud noise daily. Hearing loss can occur due to a single incident or it can develop gradually over time. In Pennsylvania, occupational hearing loss is compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Workers who have more than a ten percent impairment may be entitled to specific loss benefits.
Specific Loss Benefits
Specific loss benefits are available for injured workers who suffered specific severe injuries. A lump sum payment is awarded regardless of whether a worker was disabled or missed work because of his or her injuries. To receive specific loss benefits for hearing loss, a worker must:
- Show that they have at least a ten percent hearing impairment
- Provide medical documentation showing their hearing loss is work related
- Notify their employer within 120 days of being informed of their hearing loss by a medical professional
- File a workers’ compensation claim within three years of their last exposure to the loud noise at work
Other factors will also be considered for a Pennsylvania workers’ comp claim for hearing loss, including whether the worker suffered hearing loss due to firearms, loud music, ageing or other non-work-related causes.
Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss
The General Duty Clause of the OSH Act states that employers are required to provide workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Both OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) address noise exposure limits in the workplace. However, OSHA sets legal limits on workplace noise exposure whereas the NIOSH criteria are recommendations.
Employers must comply with OSHA-established standards regarding occupational noise exposure, including limiting workers noise exposure to 90dBA per eight-hour shift. OSHA suggests that engineering controls be implemented whenever possible, such as choosing low-noise tools, using sound barriers and isolating the noise source.
When engineering controls are not feasible or are inadequate, employers can implement administrative controls to reduce or eliminate worker exposure. Examples include creating distance between the noise and employees, providing workers with quiet areas, and limiting the amount of time workers are exposed to loud noise. Employers are also encouraged to develop hearing conservation programs under which they will evaluate existing noise levels, tools, equipment and worker schedules and provide workers with free annual hearing exams, personal protective equipment (PPE) and training to reduce or eliminate employee exposure to loud noise in the workplace.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Recover Benefits for Occupational Hearing Loss
If you suffered hearing loss due to your work environment or work-related activities, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact a skilled Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. for a free consultation. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-PITT-LAW today or complete our online contact form.
We represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.