With full-powered machinery and tool-heavy tasks, construction is one of the noisiest industries to work in. Every day, over 10 million construction workers are exposed to blaring noise. However, construction site noise is not only loud but can also be hazardous to one’s hearing. According to the CDC, 14% of all construction workers have considerable hearing difficulty because of job-related noise.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) sets a boundary of 85 decibels (dBA)—the units used to measure sound intensity—as the recommended occupational exposure limit. Prolonged exposure to sounds over 85 dBA or higher can cause ear damage and increase the chances of developing hearing loss.
Construction workers are at serious risk because the equipment they use regularly is above NIOSH’s limit. Forklifts emit sounds of 90 dBAm, while hammer drills reach 120 dBA. Even electricians, who are considered one of the quieter trades, are surrounded in environments over 85 dbA. For many construction jobs, workers work above the limit for 70% of their shifts.
Despite the hazards, construction workers report wearing hearing protection devices less than 20% of the time. If loud noise is such a serious risk, why aren’t workers protecting their ears? A major reason is that workers often don’t recognize the risks. While sound levels in construction aren’t obvious as in industries like forestry and oil, most construction sounds are in the 80-90 dBA—a level that is not immediately painful but can have long-term hearing effects.
To illustrate just how loud construction site noise really is and ensure on site safety, the infographic below gives a comparison scale of common construction noises and everyday sounds and outlines the average decibels and limits of construction trades.
Contributing Author: Lior Zitzman, Director of Digital Audience, BigRentz
Lior Zitzman is the Director of Digital Audience at BigRentz, a construction equipment rentals marketplace with a network of over 1,500 rental partners. He has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise-level SEO at automotive publishing and equipment companies.