Noise induced hearing loss is defined as the result from damage to structures and/or nerve fibers in the inner ear that respond to sound. It is usually caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds and cannot be medically or surgically corrected.

It is evitable that construction sites will be a noisy environment and that workers will be exposed to elevated sounds, as there is bound to be construction vehicles, demolition work and numerous amounts of employees gathering and talking amongst one another.  According to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, no employee or person shall be exposed to at or above 85dBA noise rating. To put this noise rating into perspective, the average dBA noise level of a concrete saw or electric grinder is 98 and a jackhammer is 102.

What is a Noise Zone?

A noise zone is any area where an employee or person is exposed to noise at or above the noise rating, which can be harmful over a period of time. It is indicated that a noise zone should be clearly identified, and that hearing protective equipment must be worn in the area. The reason should also be identified on the signage as to why it is considered as a noise zone, for example; Explosive Powered Tools In Use:

Caution - Explosive Powered Tools in Use

Duties of persons who may be exposed to noise

It is required that any person or employee that may be exposed to high levels of noise must use measures adopted for noise control and should immediately report any defective, damaged or lost noise equipment.  No person should enter or remain in an area where personal hearing protectors are required, unless otherwise authorised to do so. All employees that will be exposed to high levels of noise will require information and training as specified in the Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Regulation 4.

Hearing Protective Equipment

Common types of hearing PPE are earmuffs, earplugs (disposable or individually moulded), ear canal caps or semi-insets. The requirements for hearing protective equipment should be capable of keeping noise exposure below 85dBA noise rating. Employees are required to select and use the equipment as intended, kept in good conditions, and receive the information, instruction, training and supervision that are necessary with regard to the use of the equipment.

Control of Noise Exposure

Noise control measures must be taken where possible such as engineering control measures or administrative control measures. Engineering measures includes elimination or reduction of noise at its source. Administrative measures include to limit the number of persons exposed to high levels of noise and the duration of noise exposure by employees. If engineering and administrative control measures fail to reduce the exposure of noise, the use of hearing protective equipment is required.

To remember

As stated above, there is no cure for permanent hearing loss or damage. One “treatment” to consider is to avoid exposure to noise that could further damage the inner ear, this could prevent hearing loss form getting worse.

A contractor must ensure that all his or her employees have valid medical certificates of fitness specific to the construction work to be performed and issued by an occupational health practitioner in the form of Annexure 3.

This is required to avoid any incidents for happening on site. Therefore, if any employee has suffered from noise damage and fails the audiogram test, they will not be permitted to perform work on site as it is considered as a hazard. For example, if a worker fails to hear a construction vehicle reversing, the possibility is there that the worker may not move out of the way and get injured.   

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Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email:

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