NIOSH, OSHA, and NHCA Establish Alliance on Workplace Hearing Loss Prevention
Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 245-0645
March 24, 2008
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) signed an agreement February 21 with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) for outreach and resources to help prevent work-related hearing loss.
The three partners pledged to work together to:
- Provide expertise in developing information for recognizing and preventing occupational hearing loss, and in developing ways to communicate such information to employers and employees.
- Speak, exhibit, or appear at partner-sponsored conferences, local meetings, and national conferences such as the annual NCHA conference.
- Share information among OSHA and NIOSH personnel and industry safety and health professionals regarding NHCA-recommended best practices or effective approaches. Also to publicize results through materials prepared by the partners, training programs, workshops, seminars, lectures, or other appropriate forums.
- Work with others on specific issues and projects that are addressed and developed through the alliance.
- Convene or participate in forums, round-table discussions, or stakeholder meetings on workplace hearing-loss prevention, to help forge innovative solutions or to provide input on worker safety and health issues.
"We are pleased to join with OSHA and NHCA in this collaborative effort to prevent hearing loss from exposures to noise and other agents on the job," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "Work-related hearing loss is a serious but preventable problem, and we look forward to successes that we can achieve by working together under this formal agreement."
A team of representatives from all three organizations will meet to develop an action plan, determine working procedures, and identify the roles and responsibilities of the participants. The team will meet at least three times per year to track and share information on activities and results in achieving the goals of the agreement.
The agreement supports NIOSH's strategic research program for preventing work-related hearing loss. Approximately 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise on the job and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss from other agents such as solvents and metals. Work-related hearing loss can significantly degrade a worker's quality of life, potentially leading to disability.
Although comprehensive data on the economic impact of hearing loss are not available, localized data suggest that job-related hearing loss places an enormous burden on workers, their families, businesses, and the general economy. For example, in Washington State, workers' compensation disability settlements for hearing-related conditions cost $4.8 million in 1991 (not including medical costs). In the national workforce, occupational hearing loss costs an estimated $242.4 million per year in disability alone.
NIOSH offers a wide range of resources to help prevent work-related hearing loss. These include recommendations for controlling levels of workplace noise that create the risk of hearing loss, designing hearing-loss prevention programs, and selecting and properly using appropriate hearing-protection devices where dangerous levels of noise have not yet been reduced or eliminated. More information about NIOSH's research and recommendations on hearing-loss prevention is available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/.
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