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Changing Your Drills May Reduce Hearing Loss


Each year, 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise on the job. Those who frequently drill concrete, such as construction or maintenance workers, are at the biggest risk of exposure to high levels of noise, dust, and vibration.

Last year, businesses paid more than $1.5 million in fine for failing to protect workers from hearing damage.

Frequent exposure to loud noises kills nerve endings in the inner ear, which limits the ability to hear high frequency sounds and understand speech. Over time, this damage can become permanent.

It’s estimated that $242 million is spent annually on workers’ compensation for hearing loss.


Related: Listen Up, Occupational Hearing Loss is Still a Problem


According to a new study, switching the drills in your workplace may help limit worker exposure to noise, dust, and vibration. The study, from University of California, Berkeley, revealed that electric drills might be a much healthier and safer choice than pneumatic drills.

Pneumatic drills are heavy pieces of equipment driven by compressed air. Electric drills are driven by an electric motor.

The study used a test bench robotic system to gauge and compare silica dust, handle vibration, and noise from both drills.

The average level of noise for the electric drill was 102 decibels, compared to a higher 116.2 decibels from the pneumatic drill. The pneumatic drill also had a vibration level that was five times higher than the electric drill.


Related: NIOSH SLM Brings Noise Safety Surveillance Right to Your Phone


Reducing Silica Exposure Due to Dust


The silica dust was perhaps the most significant difference between using either drill. The silica dust generated by the pneumatic rock drill was at least 444 times greater than OSHA’s PEL of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour time-weighted average.

The electric drill produced silica dust that was 11 times greater than the PEL.

The study also measured effectiveness and concluded that each drill was similarly effective. In conjunction with proper hearing and chemical exposure protection — an electric drill can be a much safer choice for the workplace.


Medical Surveillance Testing For Noise and Silica Exposure


Make your business a healthier place to work by utilizing medical surveillance. Worksite Medical offers a suite of mobile medical services.

We perform OSHA-required mobile audiometric exams and silica physicals to monitor both noise and silica exposure. Get all the resources of a lab directly to your worksite, and test workers without the hassle of off-site visits.

Give us by filling out the form below, or by giving us a call today at 1-844-OCCUMED, to get your free quote or schedule an appointment.


Noise and Silica Exposure

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