WorkSafeBC has released a new safety bulletin with noise control regulations for workers in the service industry.
The safety organization says many people working as servers and bartenders are reluctant to use hearing protection devices because they believe it will make it difficult to communicate with customers.
“Studies show that when noise levels reach 90 decibels or higher, hearing protection actually improves your ability to hear speech,” said Dan Strand, WorkSafe BC's director of prevention services. “We need to change how we think about hearing protection in the service industry.”
Repeated exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss in unprotected people. But studies by WorkSafeBC show that many pubs and nightclubs in B.C. exceed that level during a regular shift.
If noise exceeds the 85 decibel limit within an eight-hour shift, employers are required by regulation to have a noise control and hearing conservation program.
Between 2008 and 2017, WorkSafeBC accepted 3,343 disability claims for noise-induced hearing loss in the province.
“Noise is a serious and widespread problem in many workplaces, and this includes the service industry,” said Strand. “Our research has found that most service sector workers and employers are not aware of the risk of hearing loss in their industry.”
The safety guidelines urge workers to find hearing protection tools that work best for them and to get annual hearing tests. In addition, WorkSafeBC is also now providing employees in the service industry with several online resources to better raise awareness on noise-induced hearing loss.