Working at a construction site means being exposed to noise. Lots of it. Unfortunately our ears were not designed for that much noise, and prolonged exposure can and will lead to permanent hearing loss. Ever left work for the day with ringing ears? That’s a sign the damage has already begun.

Even a one-time exposure to loud noises, say from a blasting zone, can cause damage. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to high noise levels can increase the risk of heart disease, and of course it’s also a safety hazard. Not being able to hear warning signals can lead to tragedy.

To determine the noise levels at your construction site, use a sound level meter. If this is not possible, use the 2 to 3 Foot Rule. Stand an arm’s length away from a co-worker and speak to him; if you have to shout to be heard 2 or 3 feet away, the noise is at a damaging level.

To reduce noise, plan ahead. Sites should be designed with sound barriers and work hours should be limited in dangerously noisy areas. If all possible, quieter equipment should be used. Signs should be posted in areas of damaging noise levels to warn others, and all workers should wear hearing protection, such as molded ear plugs.

Three key factors in noise reduction (reduce, move, and block) should always be kept in mind. Reduce it by using quieter tools whenever possible, move it by moving noisy equipment away or leaving noisy areas if you don’t have to be there, and block it with sound barriers and hearing protection.

Equipment should also be inspected and properly maintained as equipment in poor condition tends to be much louder. Be proactive and protective of your hearing, otherwise you may realize how precious it is when it’s too late.