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Ear protection is a sensitive issue for forklift operators. On the one hand, it is vitally important that you are able to hear your surroundings. On the other hand, there is no denying that forklifts are noisy vehicles and you do not want to risk noise-induced hearing loss. In this post, we will discuss some of the considerations involved in protecting your hearing at the work site.
Forklifts and noise
Generally, it is believed that forklifts operate at around 85 decibels, which is roughly as noisy as a push lawn mower. This may not seem terribly loud, but it is at the threshold for noise-induced hearing loss. For this reason it is the level at which people are recommended to use hearing protection. While it is true that some people are drawn to noise and enjoy loud sounds, this does not justify failing to wear ear protection. As such, wearing hearing protection should be viewed as a necessary precautionary measure when operating a forklift. A sign should be posted to remind operators to wear their hear protection gear.
Recommended ear protection
All forklift operators are required to wear either ear plugs or ear muffs, as they can reduce noise by 30 decibels. Whichever form of ear protection you select, make sure that you do not eliminate noise completely; it is for this reason that those who are hearing-impaired (or where hearing aids) have difficulty safely operating forklifts. Supervisors need to ensure that operators are not listening to music or simply masking ambient noise with other sounds. You still want the operator to retain awareness of environmental sounds (other drivers, pedestrian traffic, etc.). Nonverbal communication is crucial for staying safe and is a part of staying safe for operators and non-operators alike.
Forklifts are not generally viewed as being the noisiest vehicles in existence, but they are loud enough that you still need to protect your hearing. Wearing ear plugs or ear muffs will reduce sound to a safe level while still allowing you to hear your surroundings. Ear protection not only helps your hearing in the present but will retain your hearing over the long term as well, allowing you to remain an effect forklift operator well into the future.