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Providing workers with double hearing protection

OSHA has a permissible exposure limit in place that's meant to protect all workers in Texas and across the U.S. from overexposure to loud noises. The safety organization also has a hearing conservation program requirement. Employers are to train employees on how to monitor noise levels and safeguard themselves. This naturally means providing the right hearing protection devices.

In some cases, employees may need more than one hearing protection device. They may, for example, have to wear both earmuffs and earplugs. This is called double protection, and NIOSH generally recommends it when workers' exposure to noise exceeds a time-weighted average of 100 A-weighted decibels over a single eight-hour shift. The Mine Safety and Health Administration recommends that miners wear double protection when that average is 105 dBA.

While workers should not sacrifice comfort, they must also ensure that the hearing devices fit well, or their effectiveness will be diminished. Another thing to remember is that double protection can prevent workers from hearing warnings and other important sounds. Employers must know, then, what work sites are appropriate for double protection.

OSHA recommends an easy way to measure hearing protection levels. Workers and employers can simply add 5 dBA to the noise reduction rating of that device with the higher rating of the two.

If employers fail to provide hearing protection or train their employees on identifying safe and unsafe noise levels, then they may be to blame for employees' hearing loss. Regardless of whether there is a breach in workplace safety, those injured on the job can be reimbursed for their medical bills and part of their lost wages thanks to the workers' compensation program. Before filing, they may want to hire a lawyer, especially because they may face a denial of their claim. A lawyer may help mount an appeal.

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