The construction industry is infamous for its loud machinery and rowdy building processes. And for most people, this constant stream of awful noises presents nothing more than a nuisance. However, for construction workers, it can become a source of many different health issues. In this article, we will name some of those issues and offer several methods that can prevent them.
Noise-Induced Health Issues
Construction is among the most dangerous industries out there, and noise is one of the reasons why that is so. Long-term exposure to loud sounds can lead to countless health issues, some of which are quite serious. One of the most severe noise-induced problems is partial or total hearing loss.
Humans have very delicate hearing organs, which is why they are hidden deep inside the inner ear. However, prolonged exposure to construction sounds can do harm to this part of the ear, thus damaging one’s ability to process sounds.
Another issue related to inner ear damage is the loss of balance. The vestibular system is a group of organs in the inner ear that are responsible for equilibrium. So, if these organs get damaged, a person might become dizzy and unstable. And if such an injury occurs during working hours, it might even put the life of an afflicted worker in danger.
Other mental and physical health issues related to noise pollution include:
● Increased stress sensitivity
● Inability to concentrate
● Anxiety and depression
● Sleep disturbance
● Tinnitus (ringing or other noises in one or both ears)
● High blood pressure and viscosity
● Different metabolic disorders
Methods of Prevention
People often use earplugs for protection against loud noises, and it makes sense. After all, these small devices block the ear canal, thus muffling or even silencing noises. Therefore, the chances of the inner ear suffering through any sort of trauma become minimal. With these facts in mind, it’s no wonder earplugs are among the everyday staples for construction workers.
However, it might not be a good idea to buy the first pair of earplugs you run into. In fact, most earplugs on the market aren’t suitable for construction sites. Therefore, you will have to do your research and find a pair that is specifically designed for construction work. Generally speaking, they should be reusable, comfortable, and hypoallergenic. In addition, construction-grade earplugs need to keep speech audible and prevent the feeling of isolation.
However, even the best earplugs out there will have some drawbacks. First of all, they will block out important audio signals and the voices of coworkers. This, in turn, might put the life of a person wearing them in danger, since they won’t be able to hear any hazard warnings. Furthermore, earplugs can lead to nasty ear infections after hours of use, especially if not handled properly.
Another crucial piece of protection equipment that we need to include on this list is earmuffs. This simple gadget offers all of the benefits of earplugs without some of the drawbacks. Namely, it blocks outside sounds without entering the ear canal and potentially causing infection. Furthermore, unlike earplugs, earmuffs are easy to remove and put back on. Therefore, they allow workers much more freedom while still protecting them from noise pollution.
It’s important, however, to distinguish between the two types of noise-cancelling earmuffs on the market. Regular earmuffs rely on ordinary muffling technology to block out any outside sound, no matter the frequency.
On the other hand, battery-powered earmuffs allow users to block different frequencies and amplify sounds they want to hear. So, if your position requires you to communicate with other coworkers, you might be better off with a battery-powered option. Otherwise, plain old earmuffs should do the trick.
Still, we must acknowledge that noise-cancelling earmuffs come with their fair share of problems. And one of the greatest disadvantages of this piece of equipment is that it limits the ability of workers to communicate. Even battery-powered earmuffs, which are often praised for selective sound blocking, disrupt the regular flow of information. Therefore, noise-cancelling earmuffs should not be a go-to option if there is constant detail exchange.
High-Noise Communication Headsets
Although the previous two entries can protect you from most of the issues we’ve mentioned, they both have one major drawback — they hinder communication. However, with high-noise communication headsets, this ceases to be a problem. For instance, two-way communication devices allow workers to talk to each other without direct contact through built-in microphones and headphones. Furthermore, thanks to the noise-cancelling technology similar to that found in earmuffs, these headsets still keep workers safe.
High-noise communication headsets are a perfect noise-cancelling tool for several reasons. First of all, just like earmuffs, they can be put on and off quite easily, which means workers won’t feel smothered. In addition, they are also less likely to provoke any sort of ear infection. Another thing they have in common with earmuffs is the fact that they can block out custom frequencies.
Most construction headsets are made to fit inside the protective helmet. Therefore, this piece of equipment won’t require workers to choose between safety and comfort. Finally, thanks to a built-in noise-cancelling microphone and speakers, the workers will be able to communicate without outside interference.
One minor drawback of this method is that it’s not as inexpensive as the previous two. However, it will be a worthwhile investment since these headsets will protect workers’ health while boosting their productivity. Plus, as technology progresses, they will become more and more accessible.
Construction noise might be a not-so-silent killer for those involved in this industry. Constant exposure to loud sounds can lead to loss of hearing, sleep disturbance, and other physical and mental problems. Therefore, it’s essential for construction workers to protect themselves as much as possible.
Depending on the work environment and job position, you can choose between earplugs, earmuffs, and high-noise communication headsets. And whichever of those you choose, you can rest assured, knowing that your ears and hearing are protected.
Like this story?
Guest writers for Engineering IRL have contributed some great articles covering a wide range of topics.
Please contact us if you would like to contribute an article to Engineering IRL.
This article is brought to you by Rick Farrell.
Author: Rick Farrell, President, Plant-Tours.com
Farrell is North America’s foremost expert in improving manufacturing group communication, education, training, and group hospitality processes. He has over 40 years of group hospitality experience, most recently serving as President of Plant-Tours.com for the last 18 years. He has provided consulting services with the majority of Fortune 500 industrial corporations improving group communication dynamics of all types in manufacturing environments.