Hearing test data shows steady increase in hearing loss among oil and gas drilling workers

WORKSAFEBC raises concerns about an increase in hearing loss among workers in the oil and gas drilling industry and alerts employers and workers with new security bulletin.

Hearing test data collected by employers in the oil and gas drilling industry over five years shows that the percentage of workers with signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) increased 12 percent from 33 percent in 2012 at 45 percent. in 2017. By comparison, 13% of workers in all other noisy industries tested positive for NIHL in 2017.

Of the 294 NIHL oil and gas drilling workers, 194 – 65 percent – were under 35.

While the percentage of workers with NIHL increased in the drilling industry, the percentage of workers who reported wearing hearing protection also increased from 94 to 98 percent, with heavy reliance on A plugs, commonly referred to as foam earplugs.

“There are a number of reasons why workers may be diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss even though they are wearing some form of hearing protection,” says Sasha Brown, occupational audiologist at WorkSafeBC. “Earplugs or earmuffs may be the wrong size, inserted or worn incorrectly, not be worn long enough, or they may not provide sufficient protection for the duration and intensity of the injury. exposure to noise. “

Employers can take steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Make sure that all at-risk workers wear sufficient and suitable hearing protection and know how to wear it correctly.
  • Make sure workers put on or wear appropriate hearing protection before entering a noisy environment and wear it until they have left the noisy area.
  • Rotate workers to different positions so they spend less time in noisy environments.
  • Identify potential engineering controls to mitigate the risk of exposure.
  • Make sure workers have their hearing tested and are aware of the results of their hearing tests.
According to Regulation respecting occupational health and safety and Guidelines, employers are required to provide hearing loss prevention programs, monitor noise levels, and perform annual hearing tests for workers exposed to unsafe noise levels to prevent permanent hearing damage.

Hazardous noise levels are defined as 85 decibels on the A scale for eight hours or equivalent; the A scale is used to measure ambient noise. All workers are required to wear appropriate hearing protection and participate in their employer’s hearing loss prevention program. Since 2006, there have been over 41,000 claims accepted for NIHL in British Columbia.

WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory body governed by a board of directors appointed by the provincial government. The organization serves approximately 2.4 million workers and 238,000 employers across British Columbia. In enforcing the Workers’ Compensation Act, the organization is accountable to the public through the provincial government.

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