Oil and gas workers suffering hearing loss at double the rate of other noisy industries

Drilling and pipeline work is noisy business and according to a new report it's taking an alarming toll on the hearing of workers in B.C.'s gas and oil industry.

Over one third show signs of hearing loss according to WorkSafeBC

A worker adjusts hoses during a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas well. (Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press)

Drilling and pipeline work is noisy business and according to a new report it's taking an alarming toll on the hearing of workers in B.C.'s gas and oil industry.

In a bulletin WorkSafeBC says those oil and gas patch workers are experiencing noise-induced hearing loss at a rate of 33 per cent, over twice the rate of workers in other noisy jobs.

"It raises a few alarm bells," said Budd Phillips, regional prevention manager with WorkSafeBC in Fort St. John. "Approximately one-third of workers were starting to show signs of noise induced hearing loss."

WorkSafe doesn't know if ear protection is absent, improperly used, or just inadequate for all the noise. But Phillips says companies need to do a better job making sure their employees are protected.

Workers often don't use the ear protection they are given, said Art Jarvis of Energy Services B.C. — which speaks for 1,600 companies working in B.C.'s gas patch.

"Definitely if you're working beside a frac crew with screaming engines, that's a noisy location," said Jarvis.

The report is based on tests conducted in 2014 and notes that young workers are most likely to forego hearing protection devices entirely, with 27 per cent of those under-21 reporting they didn't use hearing protection.

WorkSafeBC regulations requires that employers provide workers with CSA rated hearing protection and test them annually when workplace noise exceeds a certain exposure limit.

Only 15 per cent of oil and gas workers were tested in 2014.

With files from Betsy Trumpener

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