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Responding to Abnormal Machine Sounds

Employers often express concern about people who are deaf or hard of hearing working around or driving forklifts or other heavy equipment. Often workers are required to wear hearing protection that limits their ability to hear what is going on in the work environment for both workers who may have hearing loss and those that do not. However, in response to concerns regarding workers with hearing loss, certain suggestions can be made:

Set paths of travel might be established for forklifts, vehicles, and heavy equipment. Paths could be created using tape, paint or ropes. Rules could be established and enforced that all forklifts and vehicles must stop at intersections. Flashing lights and mirrors could be installed on vehicles to enhance the worker’s visual cues of the environment. Mirrors might also be placed around the work environment. The individual with hearing loss may be willing to wear a hard hat or vest of a unique color to serve as a warning regarding his hearing loss.

Vibrating one-touch pagers might be used. The pager transmitter might be placed in the moving equipment in a strategic location where the driver can press a button to send a signal to the vibrating receiver the employee who is deaf or hard of hearing would wear. A portable CCTV might be installed in a forklift to enhance a person's ability to visually assess their environment.

Hearing Protection

Some concerns involve the issue of wearing hearing protection in the workplace around heavy equipment. An employer may be concerned that a person who is hard of hearing will not be able to hear coworkers speaking to them. Some workers might benefit from wearing electronic hearing protection that allows the frequency range of the human voice (800-4000Hz) to be heard but filters out damaging noise. Certain sounds can be amplified with an adjustable volume control if desired.

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