Construction sites are noisy. Even if you can’t see one, you can probably hear one from miles away. Construction workers must put up with many hazards on the job—falling objects, motor vehicles, and so on—but excessive noise is rarely appreciated as a source of injury. At Powers & Santola, LLP, our Albany construction accident lawyers can assist anyone who suffers hearing loss or an ear injury while working. You probably qualify for a variety of benefits and might even bring a personal injury lawsuit, but you need an experienced attorney to review all options with you.
Sources of Construction Noise
Power tools and motor vehicles are the source of most noise on construction sites:
- Dump trucks
- Wrecking balls
Noise presents many problems and makes work dangerous. For one, excessive noise makes it hard to hear other workers, who might be warning you of a problem. Someone shouts “Watch out!” but you can’t hear over the din.
Noise can also make it hard to hear the alarms on motor vehicles that sound when the vehicle is backing up. Too much noise is a contributor to many accidents. However, it is also dangerous in its own right.
OSHA Standards for Noise
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has passed noise standards for construction industries. These standards are designed to protect worker safety.
Regulation 1926.52 lays out when sound levels are sufficiently excessive to require ear protection. The regulation also identifies when engineering controls are required to reduce noise. The thrust of the rule is that employers must act to protect workers when noise is too loud for certain periods of time. The louder the noise, the shorter the duration required for it to qualify as excessive.
Regulation 1926.101 also requires protective devices when noise levels are excessive, and the rule states that plain cotton is not an acceptable ear device. Furthermore, ear devices must be fitted individually.
New York also has a state plan regarding noise that applies to state and local workers (but not private workers). Employers must be aware of these standards for their employees. Although most construction workers are private, some public employees do construction work and thus fall under the state plan.
Excessive Noise and Hearing Loss
According to the American Society of Safety Professionals, the average construction site has noise levels of 80-90 decibels. Unsurprisingly, more than half of all construction workers have experienced hazardous noise on the job. Even more alarmingly, about 31% do not wear any hearing protection while working.
Consequently, 14% of construction workers report experiencing hearing difficulty. At the extreme, this type of impairment can result in complete hearing loss.
Any worker suffering from hearing impairment has experienced a serious injury. Excessive noise damages the nerves in your ear, and even one loud “bang” can damage the nerve. For many construction workers, however, the most serious injuries are caused by prolonged, excessive noise.
Symptoms of hearing loss include difficulty following conversations. You might need to ask your spouse or child to repeat themselves because you did not initially make out what they are saying. You typically also turn up the audio on your television so that you can hear. Some people don’t know they have suffered hearing loss until someone asks, “Why are you talking so loudly?” That is a sure sign that your hearing is compromised.
Treatment is difficult. Nerve damage by brief but intense noise might heal on its own. Nerve damage caused by prolonged exposure is often irreversible. At best, injured workers can use hearing aids in their daily life to better help them following conversations. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, you might be unable to work construction anymore and need to take a lower-paying job.
Compensation for Hearing Loss on the Job
Injured workers have two sources of compensation: workers’ compensation benefits and a personal injury lawsuit. Both can help workers pay for medical care and assistive devices like hearing aids.
Hearing loss caused by workplace noise pollution is covered by workers’ compensation, just like any other injury. We need to connect the hearing loss to excessive noise at work. We also try to exclude other causes, like playing in a heavy metal band on the weekends.
New York’s workers’ compensation system makes a variety of benefits available, including wage loss benefits. Because hearing loss is usually permanent, you might qualify for a permanent partial disability payment. This is a type of scheduled loss which pays a certain amount based on the degree of hearing loss. You can receive your payment in a lump sum. Sometimes disagreement arises over the degree of permanent impairment, with your doctor believing you can hear more than you can. Our lawyers can help you receive what you deserve under New York law.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
Whether you can also sue for compensation will depend on the facts of your case. If you received defective earplugs or other protective equipment, then you can sue the manufacturer for selling a dangerous product. Anyone relying on a defective ear plug could unwittingly injure themselves when they think they are protected. We can file a product liability lawsuit against a manufacturer.
It’s a closer question whether you can sue your employer. The workers’ compensation system protects employers from being sued in most situations, but there the New York labor law creates some exceptions. Our legal team can review the facts to see if a lawsuit is possible.
Whenever you can sue, you can seek compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress, which aren’t available in the workers’ compensation system.
Call to Speak with an Albany Construction Accident Lawyer
Hearing loss is an underappreciated construction injury. After years of hard work, however, you might find that you really can’t hear people talking any more. This type of loss deserves compensation, especially when it was avoidable in the first place. Call Powers & Santola to speak with one of our attorneys about your case. We can handle either workers’ compensation claims or lawsuits—or both.