TAILGATE TALK – Hearing Protection

A Useful Tool for Hearing Health

CP Railroad, Bensenville, Illinois

OK, show of hands – How many of you admit to spending part of your youth at “Way Too Loud” music concerts?

My hand is WAY up in the air.

Back in the day, ignorance was bliss. Leaving a Metallica concert with a ringing in your ears was a badge of honor. You paid for the ticket to the concert – A contact buzz, a sore neck & ringing ears the next morning were included in the cost of the show, right?

Young and dumb, yes-sir-eee….

We’re all a lot smarter now. And a lot more wary of safety. As we should be.

I’m not going to make this a long post – We all know that extended exposure to noise is bad for us.

Well, what constitutes “bad?” Check out this table prepared by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) that assesses typical tools used by carpenters:

Courtesy of the National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH)

Hearing Protection 101

NIOSH provides what’s known as a “Recommended Exposure Limit (REL)” for noise – An individual can safely be exposed to a noise-producing environment of 85 decibels over the course of an 8 hour period.

So, from the chart above, if you were working with a table saw all day that puts out around 95 dBA, you’d want to use ear protection of some sort to reduce the noise level, and also try to use the saw less than 8 hours to minimize your overall exposure.

Practical, common sense stuff, right.

The Iowa State University Environmental Health and Safety Department published this chart that I think is really interesting:

Graphic courtesy of the Iowa State Environmental Health & Safety Department

I guess the Metallica concert was well above the allowable threshold, eh…??

NIOSH Sound Level Meter App

My real reason for writing this article was to introduce you to the app that NIOSH offers – It’s called the NIOSH Sound Level Meter App for iOS (as far as I can tell, they haven’t developed an Android-compatible version yet…).

Courtesy of the National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH)

It’s a simple-to-use sound meter that you can use on your jobsites to monitor exposure levels-A great innovation.

I downloaded it and have tried it out in a couple of different locations with multiple types of exposures – It’s amazing to see the level of noise that is produced around us.

NIOSH is clear to point out that the app will not provide the accuracy of a more-expensive sound metering apparatus, but, for the purposes of generally monitoring work environments to within a few dBA’s, I think it is a fantastic tool.

After Actions Tasks

If you haven’t already, download the NIOSH app and take it for a test drive. Whether you use any of the on-board recording & downloading capabilities is up to you: The key is to add the app to your Toolbox so it is available when you need it.

Another thing to do this week:  Inventory your toolboxes – What kind of hearing protection do you have available (assuming that you do, of course….)? Do you like to use the small, disposable foam earplugs? Or are you more of a full ear-muff wearing person? Is your gear in good shape and ready for the upcoming construction season? Are you in need of resupply or a new pair? Get your gear squared away and be prepared.


As I get older, I am getting wiser. When I was young, I thought I was invincible – And as I get older, I realize that I’m still invincible (haha!!), it’s just that the dents in the armor take a little more time and effort to pound out.

Hearing is definitely one of those things that I’m more aware of now. It is so easy to pop in a couple of foam plugs when the environment is loud – It just makes sense. There’s no point in trying to put your hearing at risk when implementing protection is so simple.

Look, being in construction exposes us to noise, it’s a hazard just like confined spaces, electricity & falls. Take the time to protect yourself. Use the NIOSH app, start to get a feel for sound levels & implement exposure mitigation when the time comes.

Once you put the app to use, hit-up a Comment (below) and let me know what you think.

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