Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2007-0068-3042, Noise exposures and hearing loss assessments among animal shelter workers, Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Algiers, Louisiana.
On December 1, 2006, NIOSH received a management request for an HHE from the LA/SPCA in Algiers, Louisiana. The HHE request asked NIOSH to assess the noise levels experienced by workers in the kennel area from barking dogs. On December 16-17, 2006, a NIOSH investigator measured noise exposure levels for workers in the kennel area. NIOSH investigators returned to the facility on February 6-8, 2007, to conduct hearing tests on all LA/SPCA employees. Thirteen kennel workers, two veterinary staff, and three client care workers provided 22 personal noise dosimetry measures over the 2- day evaluation. One of the measures collected on a kennel worker was invalid because of equipment malfunction. Sixteen of the 21 measures exceeded the daily allowable noise dose of 100% as calculated by the NIOSH criterion. Five measures also exceeded the OSHA AL. The OSHA PEL was not exceeded. Hearing tests were performed on 33 employees. Three employees showed some degree of hearing loss (> 25 decibel hearing loss) at one or more test frequencies in one or both ears on the NIOSH-administered audiogram. Twenty-one employees with normal hearing showed notches (hearing levels worsen over test frequencies before improving in the highest frequencies, forming a "notch" configuration) in one or both ears between 3000-6000 Hz, indicating early signs of hearing loss. In addition to noise, the NIOSH investigator observed other hazards. Kennel workers without gloves and without proper eye protection (safety goggles) were cleaning cages. A constituent of one of the disinfectants used to clean the cages is a known eye irritant. In addition, kennel workers were required to wear back braces in case there was a need to lift heavy animals; NIOSH has determined back braces to be ineffective in preventing back injury. Recommendations include establishing a hearing loss prevention program, wearing HPD when entering the kennel area, and using personal protective equipment when cleaning animal cages.