www.cos-mag.com
Dec 27, 2018

Hearing loss among oil and gas drilling workers rising steadily

Two-thirds of workers with noise-induced hearing loss under age 35

WorkSafeBC is alerting employers about an increase in hearing loss among workers in British Columbia’s oil and gas drilling sector.

Hearing-test data over five years indicates the percentage of workers showing signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) has increased from 33 per cent in 2012 to 45 per cent in 2017. By comparison, 13 per cent of workers in all other noisy industries tested positive for NIHL in 2017.

Out of the 294 oil and gas drilling workers with NIHL, 65 per cent were under the age of 35.

Strangely, the percentage of workers who reported wearing a hearing protection device in the sector has increased, from 94 per cent to 98 per cent, with a heavy reliance on foam earplugs.

“The earplugs or earmuffs might be the wrong size, inserted or worn incorrectly, not worn for long enough or they may not be providing enough protection for the duration and intensity of noise exposure,” said Sasha Brown, WorkSafeBC occupational audiologist.

Aside from ensuring workers are using sufficient hearing protection and wearing it properly, WorkSafeBC is encouraging employers to take the following preventive measures:

•Make sure workers wear hearing protection prior to entering a noisy environment and until after exiting.

•Rotate workers to different positions so they spend less time in noisy environments.

•Identify engineering controls to mitigate risk of exposure.

•Ensure workers have their hearing tested and are aware of their test results.

According to B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Guidelines, employers are required to provide hearing-loss prevention programs, monitor noise levels and conduct annual hearing tests for workers exposed to hazardous noise levels. Hazardous noise levels are defined as 85 decibels in the A scale for eight hours or the equivalent.

This article originally appeared in the December 2018/January 2019 issue of COS.