CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training
Most construction workers lose a lot of their hearing. You lose hearing
slowly, so you may not notice. But if you can't hear, you may be in danger
on the job.
Noise doesn't just hurt your hearing. You can also get tinnitis, a ringing
sound in your ears. Too much noise can make you tired and nervous. It can
raise your blood pressure and add stress that can help lead to heart disease.
Noise levels are measured
in decibels (dBA). We talk at about 70 decibels. Decibels are measured on
a scale like the one for earthquakes. So when the decibels go up a little,
the noise goes up a lot. 73 decibels is 2 times as loud as 70. OSHA has
rules about how long you may be exposed to a noise level, before you must
wear hearing protection:
to be unprotected
this noise level
to 8 hours
to 4 hours
to 1 hour
When the noise is 95 decibels, OSHA says you may work with no hearing protection
for only 4 hours. Even so, this noise level is not safe; 1 in 5 people exposed
regularly to 90 decibels (as OSHA allows) will lose some hearing. Short,
very loud (impact) noises can do the most harm.
If you have to raise your voice for someone 3 feet away to hear you,
the site may be too noisy and you need hearing protection.
Most construction noise comes from equipment. These decibel levels have
The noise levels change.
The noise from a gradeall earthmover is 94 decibels from 10 feet away. The
noise is only 82 decibels if you are 70 feet away. A crane lifting a load
can make 96 decibels of noise; at rest, it may make less than 80 decibels.
Try to do five things:
Many workers don't want to use hearing protection. They are afraid they
won't hear warning signals, like backup alarms. But some new protectors
can let in voices and block other noises. You may not need the hearing protection
designed for the loudest noises just something comfortable that lets
you hear talking and takes away some of the noise around you.
- Make the workplace quieter. Ask contractors to buy quieter
models when they buy new equipment. Good maintenance, new mufflers,
and other changes can make a difference too. Put sources of loud noise,
like compressors and generators, as far away from the work zone as possible.
Also, plywood or plastic sheeting set up around machinery can shield
- Cut the time you spend around loud noises. Ask to have workers
rotated from noisy jobs to quieter jobs, if possible. Take rest breaks
away from noisy spots. Wear protective equipment. OSHA says, if changes the contractor
makes do not get noise levels low enough, you must wear hearing protection.*
And you should be trained to use it.
Use hearing protection that is easy to put on and take off. Some
hardhats have earmuffs for hearing protection that can be lifted out
of the way when you don't need them. Some ear plugs have neckbands
so you don't lose them if you take them off.
- Have your hearing checked each year. Ask for at least a standard
pure-tone test. Tell them your work is noisy, so they will know you
may have lost some hearing.
- Measure the noise on site. Your local union can buy a low-cost
For more information,
call your local union, CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) (301-578-8500
or www.cpwr.com , the
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (1-800-35-NIOSH or
, or OSHA (1-800-321-OSHA or www.osha.gov).
go to www.elcosh.org.
*The OSHA standard (1926.52)
says, it "shall be provided."
This document appears in the
eLCOSH website with the permission of the author and/or copyright holder
and may not be reproduced without their consent. eLCOSH is an information
clearinghouse. eLCOSH and its sponsors are not responsible for the accuracy
of information provided on this web site, nor for its use or misuse.
© 2003, CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training. All rights reserved.
CPWR is a research, development, and training arm of the Building and
Construction Trades Dept., AFL-CIO: CPWR, Suite 1000, 8484 Georgia Ave.,
Silver Spring, MD 20910. (Edward C. Sullivan is president of the Building
and Construction Trades Dept. and of CPWR and Joseph Maloney is secretary
treasurer.) Production of this card was supported by grant CCU317202 from
the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and grants U45-ES09764
and U45-ES06185 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily
represent the official views of NIOSH or NIEHS.Noise 6/10/03
| CDC | NIOSH
| Site Map | Search
| Links | Help