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Use Deaf Awareness Week To Reduce Workplace Noise

Media release

18 September 2008

New Zealanders Urged To Use Deaf Awareness Week To Reduce Workplace Noise

Excessive noise at work caused over four thousand New Zealanders to claim for noise damage last year – deafness that cannot be cured and that could have been easily avoided.

This year’s Deaf Awareness Week (22 – 28 September) sees ACC launching a new awareness initiative to help businesses and their employees in high risk industries think about the simple steps they can take to avoid joining the injury annual statistics.

ACC’s Injury Prevention Programme Manager, John Wallaart said: ``Every day 11 new claims are made primarily due to Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) and this figure is going up each year.

``During July 2007/June 2008 year, NIHL cost New Zealand in excess of $55 million and this is double what it was five years ago. NIHL results in significant lost productivity for businesses and recent research has shown the link to increased accidents in industry.’’

The main issue is that many people don’t realise they are doing any damage to their hearing, as it’s a gradual process and often goes unnoticed, said John Wallaart.

But deafness permanent or temporary can bring serious financial and social repercussions. A sufferer can experience difficulties at work, problems communicating with their family and friends and it can even effects their organ systems.

This latest initiative, which consists of new brochures and posters being distributed to high risk industries as well as close interaction and co-operation with those industries, will hopefully help prevent a further 4,000 New Zealanders unnecessarily suffering by making them think about making simple changes. In addition, every organisation, both commercial and non-profit organisations, in New Zealand concerned with noise damage prevention needs to be involved from their own perspective. It is essential to develop a synergistic approach and solution to the problem from an early age to beyond working life.

ACC says the top five things to do to prevent hearing loss is:

- Control or eliminate the source of the noise if at all possible. Replace noisy equipment with quieter equipment or processes. Box in noisy equipment or process areas so the general workplace is protected, or move the noisy area away from other workers altogether. Get some advice on what is excessive noise-you may be surprised to learn how low it can be.

- Think about your sound exposure away from the job too. Particularly if you have a noisy job, make sure you don’t subject yourself to noisy recreational activities. The total noise dose is important.

- If you can’t eliminate or isolate the noise, you must wear approved and appropriate ear plugs or ear muffs (personal protective equipment, PPE), whenever you’re in a noisy environment. And you must wear it all the time – studies have shown that not wearing hearing protection even for short periods and seriously reduce their effectiveness.

- Make sure you’re always wearing the right protective equipment for the right job, and that it’s maintained properly. There is plenty of help out there to ensure all workers have the right hearing protection. Recently, there have been equipment marketed that will allow the attenuation from the PPE to be measured on any individual.

- Get your hearing checked regularly and if the audiologist believes your hearing is compromised, take action!

Overall, noise induced hearing loss damage appears in the top five all claims made to ACC, with agriculture and fisheries workers, trades workers, machine operators and assemblers making up 53% of all new NIHL claims. Most of these are lodged in middle age or later, and 95% of all claims are made by males.

``The most important point is that this is a preventable condition and that the ultimate cost is to the businesses and employees that are primarily affected. That’s why it’s so important that they take the small, simple but necessary steps to controlling the noise in their workplace,’’ said Mr Wallaart.


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