Construction workers face a wide variety of hazards in their jobs. These hazards vary depending on the type of work being done, location and the time of the day. Exposure to these hazards might be for a short period of time but the affect of these hazards can be noticed for a lifetime. These hazards include noise, heat, cold, radiation, vibration and chemical hazards. (Stellman, 93) This paper will emphasize on health hazards due to noise and how the intensity of this hazard can be reduced. Construction works has been one of the most dangerous works of all times.
The injury and casualty rate is one of the highest in the construction works. In the past decade a lot of changes and improvements made in the construction works have reduced these hazards to a very large extent, however the threat is still there. (Welch & Hunting, 191-196) As the occupational hazards related to construction sites have reduced dramatically, more attention is now being given to chronic illnesses associated with such jobs. These chronic illnesses are developed due to constant exposure to unwanted elements in this job.
One of such element is noise. Noise at construction site produces noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Construction works are ever changing and very dynamic in nature. The job site or worksite is never a same location and hence it is very difficult to monitor noise levels and other hazardous elements. This also makes the prevention of NIHL (noise induced hearing loss) very difficult. Until recently there was very little research done in this area and hence very little data was available.
However, with the keen interest of government and other relevant organizations such as OSHA (occupational Safety and Health Administration) etc, a number of new researches in the past few years have come up. Exposure to noise at construction sites It is usually difficult to administer the noise level and exposure time for a worker. In construction a worker might do several shifts, do various different task in a single shift and might have exposure to noise at various levels and durations. Apart from this the construction site also does not remain the same for a long period of time.
As soon as the work at one construction site is done, workers are shifted to a new location. This location might have different work, different machineries etc. all these things make it very difficult for the researchers to find out the exact amount and level of noise a worker might have gotten exposed to. In the early 1960’s a few studies attempted to define the exposure to noise at the construction sites. LaBenz, Cohen & Pearson (117-128) in 1967 pointed out that the noise exposure was most in case of the operating engineers.
However critics disagreed and pointed out that the noise exposure was most in case of sheet metal workers. (Kenney & Ayer, 626-632). In 1981, EPA also known as Environmental Protection Agency studies the noise levels at construction sites. According to their estimations approximately 513,000 workers t construction sites were continuously subjected to loud noise which ranged above 85 dBA (NIOSH, 98-126). At this point it should be noted that continuous exposure to noise level above 85 dBA induces stress and if exposure is for a long period of time can also lead hearing loss.
In 1995 there were almost 5 million workers working for the construction industry. Out of these almost 754,000 had been exposed to noise levels above 85 dBA. Concrete works and highway construction area of construction industry had the highest noise level. (Suter, 768-789). Since 1997 a lot of scientists have been researching in this area. The University of Washington has been especially taking part in this research. Neitzel & Seixas (807-817) came up with various noise measurements in the construction industry. A summary of these estimation have been given in the table below.