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The most common workplace injury may come as a surprise

This article looks at hearing loss in the workplace and what can be done to prevent it.

Workplace injuries are a serious health and safety concern. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were close to three million non-fatal work-related injuries in the private sector in 2014 alone. When people think of workplace-related injuries, they often think of rather dramatic injuries, such as broken bones and brain injuries caused by falls and accidents or diseases that result from exposure to dangerous chemicals. In fact, the number-one workplace injury may come as a surprise to most people. According to PBS Newshour, the leading work-related injury is actually hearing loss.

Leading work-related injury

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous levels of noise every year while on the job, making hearing loss the leading work-related injury. In fact, each year an estimated $242 million is spent on workers' compensation for hearing loss disability.

The figures also show that the most dangerous industry for hearing loss is mining. Construction and manufacturing were also in the top three for workers most likely to suffer from hearing loss disability. However, dangerous noise levels are not exclusive to those three industries, and even people working in transportation, hospitality, restaurants, and so on may be at risk of hearing loss.

Reducing exposure

In fact, one study found that the risk of hearing loss tends to be highest at workplaces where workers are exposed to moderate amounts of noise over an extended period of time rather than those places where workers are exposed to high noise levels. The reason is that workers in high-noise environments tend to take greater care to protect themselves against hearing loss, whereas workers in moderate-noise environments may be unaware that they are at significant risk. The fact is, however, that consistent exposure to moderate noise can lead to cumulative hearing loss, which is often irreversible.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may soon look into proposing new rules around noise exposure at work sites. The current protections date back to the 1970s and do not take into account ambient noise, which can be very high in certain professions, such as for delivery drivers, restaurant staff, and construction workers. Safety experts also note that in many cases employers fail to provide the proper safety equipment and training that could help protect employees from dangerously high decibel levels.

Workers compensation attorney

Hearing loss is just one example of how an unsafe workplace can lead to a lifelong disability. For those who have suffered a work-related injury or illness it is important to reach out to a workers' compensation attorney today. Applying for workers' compensation is not always easy, but an experienced attorney can guide workers through the claims process and help maximize the chances of them receiving the compensation that they may ultimately be entitled to.