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Echo Barrier Blog

Occupational Noise-: Report highlights dangers of long term noise exposure

Posted by Echo Barrier on Mar 26, 2024 6:41:41 AM | construction noise construction Acoustic Barriers Acoustic Barriers|Background Related|Construction

Noise-induced occupational diseases represent a significant health concern within industrial and construction sectors, predominantly impacting male employees.

According to a recent report from Swedish insurers Afa Insurance, statistics show that noise stands as the third leading cause of recognized occupational diseases, highlighting the critical need for stringent auditory health safeguards in workplaces characterized by high decibel environments.  The statistics draw for insurance claims made over a 10 year period to 2023 and as such provide a valuable insight into work practices and long term damage leading to claims and driving premiums up.

Definition and Causation: Noise-induced hearing damage encompasses long-term auditory impairments—such as hearing loss and tinnitus—attributable to sustained exposure to workplace noise. Notably, this exposure often involves operating or working in proximity to loud machinery and tools. Typically, hearing loss is observed following a minimum of ten years of exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels, although shorter durations at higher decibels can also result in hearing damage.

Occupational Disease Criteria: A condition qualifies as an occupational disease if it arises or worsens due to work or working conditions, thereby constituting a work injury resulting in claims. An occupational disease is recognized at the onset of symptoms or the initial medical consultation or sick leave attributable to the condition.

Statistical Insights: The Swedish report covers 788 cases of noise-induced occupational diseases between 2013 and 2022,  comprising claims found credible and approved by Afa Insurance. The data, sourced from Afa Insurance's claims database as of December 31, 2023, underscores a predominant affliction among men, particularly in age groups above 45 years, reflecting the cumulative effect of prolonged noise exposure in occupational settings.

Claims from Women made up only 5% of the total.

This is because noise injuries mainly occur in historically male-dominated areas and professions, for example in metalworking, heavy industry and very specifically, the construction sector.

Older people are more often affected by noise damage than younger people, 9 out of 10 of those affected are older than 45 though this can be attributed to the cumulative nature of noise damage.

While estimating the percentage of work-related injuries attributed to noise exposure worldwide is challenging due to variations in reporting standards, healthcare systems, and occupational safety regulations across different countries, this report provides a useful set of statistics to draw conclusions from since all factors of jurisdiction and definitions are common in this case.  However, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is recognized as one of the most common occupational hazards globally.


Preventive Measures and Recommendations: It is imperative for workplaces to engage in systematic health and safety practices, including risk assessment, incident tracking, and the formulation of preventive action plans. Afa Insurance advocates for the utilization of the IA system to facilitate the systematic identification and documentation of workplace hazards, laying a foundation for proactive risk management. Employers and safety officers are encouraged to adopt quieter operational methods, maintain equipment, utilize sound-dampening technologies, and ensure comprehensive awareness and training regarding noise hazards and mitigation strategies.

Echo Barrier can assist with developing a noise mitigation plan and suggest solutions to temporary noise however it is caused.

Conclusion: Occupational noise-induced diseases necessitate a concerted effort towards prevention, early detection, and remedial measures. Health and safety officers play a pivotal role in safeguarding auditory health through the implementation of best practices and adherence to regulatory standards. As such, maintaining a vigilant stance on occupational noise exposure is essential for the well-being of the workforce and the overall productivity of noise-prone industries.

The original report in Swedish is available as a PDF  here

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