British Columbia

Nix the noise: WorkSafeBC worried about hearing loss for service industry workers

WorkSafeBC is raising awareness about the risk of hearing loss for employees working in bars, restaurants and nightclubs where noise levels are above 85 decibels.

Bars, restaurants and nightclubs can be noisy enough to damage hearing

WorkSafeBC recommends people hired to work in noisy nightclubs, bars and restaurants have a baseline hearing test within the first six months of starting the job. That will help them determine whether their hearing declines during employment. (Bangkoker/Shutterstock)

Exposure to continuous loud noise at work can cause permanent hearing loss and WorkSafeBC is telling service industry employees to beware.

Dan Strand, director of prevention services at WorkSafeBC, says noise levels above 85 decibels during an eight-hour shift can cause hearing damage and the levels in nightclubs and bars are often higher. According to Strand, employers are required to have a noise control program in place if volume in the workplace is a health risk.

Strand says WorkSafeBC officers routinely find noise levels in clubs, pubs and cafes between 90 to 95 decibels. He told CBC's On The Island guest host Megan Thomas there's an easy way to test whether the environment is above 85 decibels: If you have to raise your voice into a "sort of yelling mode" to communicate with someone a metre away, it's too loud.

'Once it's gone, it's gone'

WorkSafeBC wants employees and their bosses to be aware of the risk and has created a new safety bulletin to help them take action.

The bulletin has tips for employers on how to reduce noise, such as using plastic containers instead of metal for dropping off dirty dishes. It is also recommended that staff rotate during shifts so that no employee is continuously positioned where the noise is loudest.

 

To protect themselves, WorkSafeBC suggests employees wear hearing protection and get a baseline hearing test withing six months of working in a loud bar or club.

"You do not want to see degradation of hearing. Once it's gone, it's gone and it doesn't come back," said Strand.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said WorkSafeBC's focus on educating employers about the health impact of noise has been positive because many don't know it's a hazard.

Guignard said there are hearing protection devices that employees can wear that will cancel out background noise, but still allow them to hear customers who are speaking to them.

Between 2008 and 2017, WorkSafeBC accepted 3,343 disability claims for noise-induced hearing loss in B.C.

On The Island

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