March-April 2018

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18 PalletCentral • March-April 2018 new bulletin released in March 2018 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sounded a wake-up call for employers. The document confirms that damage to workers' hearing can occur not only from high noise exposure levels, but also from exposure to chemicals. The chemicals – called ototoxicants – are a relatively unknown cause of injury to workers, but include certain pesticides and solvents, which can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance. OSHA's new Safety and Health Information Bulletin hearing loss is published at According to OSHA, 22 million workers are exposed to noise in the workplace every day at potentially damaging levels. When uncontrolled, noise exposure may cause permanent hearing loss, an irreversible health condition that is fully preventable. The new report confirms that exposure to certain chemicals may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure, but the combination of noise and chemicals can be extremely hazardous to workers. Hearing loss results in $242 million per year in workers' compensation costs. OSHA notes that the risk of hearing loss is increased when workers are exposed to toxic chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. This combination often results in hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the level of noise, the dose of the chemical, and the duration of the exposure. This hearing impairment affects many occupations and industries, from machinists to firefighters. The exposure routes include inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption of chemical ototoxicants. Unfortunately, many of these chemicals are not identified as ototoxicants (yet) on the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) provided by the chemical manufacturers to downstream employers who use them. Employers should watch for chemical products containing neurotoxins or nephrotoxins, as these may also impact worker hearing. OSHA's Noise Standard In the pallet industry, companies are well-aware that workers may suffer occupational hearing loss as a result of exposure to high noise levels (above the OSHA maximum exposure limit of 90 dBA, over an 8- hour time-weighted- average (TWA) work period). These are common sources of worker's compensation claims, when workers suffer a Standard A OSHA's Noise Standard: What's the Buzz? By Adele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP SAFETY

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