The inaugural 'Hear and Now - Noise Safety Challenge' hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently selected 3 inventors to be recognised for their contribution to reducing work-related hearing loss.
Ten finalists, selected from 28 submissions to Challenge.gov, were invited to Washington, D.C. to present their solutions to reduce workplace-induced hearing loss with the aims of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels commented:
"This event was an innovative way for government to help better protect workers from job-related hearing loss by connecting the entrepreneurial community with inventors developing solutions."
A custom-fitted earpiece designed to provide a worker with protection, communication, and monitoring was selected to take first place by a panel of judges while second place went to sensor technology (detecting noise levels and offering warnings) which fastens to glasses or PPE such as hardhats. Third place was awarded for an interchangeable decorative piece attaching to silicone earplugs.
Noise is unwanted sound that can cause impairments or damage to health. Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear, repeated exposure can mean irreparable damage resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Each year, 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging hearing loss and businesses pay in excess of US$1.5 million in penalties for failing to adequately protect workers from noise exposure. It is further anticipated that US$242 million is spent each year on compensation for hearing loss.
Brenig Moore, Technical Director at Astutis commented:
“In Europe, millions of employees are exposed to noise at work and the risks this can entail. About 7% suffer from work related hearing difficulties and noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most prevalent recognised occupational diseases in the EU. The figures referenced in this article should be a cause of concern for business leaders – especially when simple PPE measures and training could save vast amounts of money. It’s prevention rather than cure that we should be looking for. Hopefully inventions such as these will go a long way to reducing the figures.’
‘Control of Noise at Work’ regulations were issued for the UK in April 2006 with the aim of ensuring that workers' hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work. You can read more about these regulatiosn on the HSE website.
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