New American research has found as many as one in three noise-exposed oil and gas extraction and mining workers are affected by hearing loss.
The study, from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is the first to examine hearing loss prevalence and risk by industry within the Oil and Gas Extraction sector, and within most Mining sector industries.
Researchers found that in many industries within these sectors, at least 25 per cent of the workers had hearing loss. In some industries, more than 30 per cent had hearing loss.
Epidemiologist and co-author of the study, Elizabeth Masterson, said the study highlights the large proportions of workers with hearing loss and identifies the industries within these sectors that are most affected.
“Occupational hearing loss is entirely preventable and knowing which workers are at greatest risk can help better tailor strategies to protect their hearing.”
Previous NIOSH research has found noise exposure to be the primary risk factor for occupational hearing loss, and it’s estimated that 61 per cent of all workers in Mining, and Oil and Gas Extraction have been exposed to hazardous noise on the job.
Along with hearing loss hearing loss, occupational noise exposure has also been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
In the Mining Sector
- Overall, 24% of noise-exposed workers in the Mining sector had hearing loss.
- Noise-exposed workers in the Construction Sand and Gravel Mining industry had the highest prevalence of hearing loss at 36%, followed by Uranium-Radium-Vanadium Ore Mining (31%), Bituminous Coal and Lignite Surface Mining (28%), Iron Ore Mining (27%), and Copper Ore, and Nickel Ore Mining (24%).
- Noise-exposed workers in Support Activities for Coal Mining had double the risk of hearing loss than noise-exposed workers in Couriers and Messengers, a low-prevalence comparison industry.
- Noise-exposed workers in Gold Ore Mining had a 71% higher risk of hearing loss than noise-exposed workers in Couriers and Messengers, a low-prevalence comparison industry.
In the Oil and Gas Extraction Sector
- Overall, 14% of noise-exposed workers in the Oil and Gas Extraction sector had hearing loss.
- Within Natural Gas Liquid Extraction, 28% of noise-exposed workers had hearing loss and a 76% higher risk of hearing loss than noise-exposed workers in Couriers and Messengers, a low-prevalence comparison industry.
- No data were available for two of the largest industries (Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction; Drilling Oil and Gas Wells), indicating more worker surveillance is needed.
What can employers do?
For general occupational hearing loss prevention, NIOSH recommends removing or reducing noise at the source, and when noise cannot be reduced to safe levels, implementing an effective hearing conservation program with effective engineering controls is vital.
Employers should also rotate workers out of loud areas and from noisy tasks to decrease exposure time, as well as eliminate any barriers to the use of hearing protection devices.
Want to learn more? Search the myosh HSEQ Library for noise.