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Occupational Deafness Real Problem

Occupational Deafness Real Problem For New Zealand Workers

It is estimated that 25 per cent of New Zealand's workers are exposed to noise levels which are harmful to their hearing said the Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) today.

To help tackle this problem OSH is currently reviewing the guidelines that advise employers and employees how to manage noise in the workplace.

"Approximately one in four engineers will suffer a noise induced hearing loss by the end of their working lives," said Frank Darby, Senior Health Policy Adviser, OSH.

"However it's hard to get accurate statistics which measure the extent of New Zealand's problem as many people don't report hearing loss.

"Sometimes this is because noise induced deafness is accumulated over a long time and it goes unnoticed. Other workers accept the hearing loss is part of the job or just part of getting old.

"There can also be a difficulty in separating the effects of work and non work related noise.

"Information on the effect of noise on hearing, and ways to prevent hearing loss has been widely available in New Zealand since about 1963. Yet our findings indicate that this knowledge is not always being applied.

The "Approved Code of Practice for the Management of Noise in the Workplace" is currently being amended. As part of that process the draft document is now being circulated and submissions are sought from interested parties.

The significant amendments to the Approved Code of Practice for the Management of Noise in the Workplace include:

* More comprehensive descriptions of how to assess noise, ways to control noise, ways to measure hearing ability and choose the right hearing protection.

* An updated method of hearing protector selection, known as the "Classification" or "Class" method. This method supersedes the "Grade" method that has been in use in New Zealand for the last twenty or so years. The method which manufacturers use to test hearing protectors has also changed, providing a test that better takes into account the "real world" use of hearing protectors.

* A new way of measuring hearing ability based temporary changes rather than testing for permanent hearing loss only. The criterion for the degree of noise induced hearing loss that is recognised as serious harm is unchanged.

OSH expects to receive all submissions on or before the 28th of February 2002.


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