05 May 2008

Miners' hearing at risk

Excessive noise levels in the mining industry causing hearing loss in mine workers.

A study among workers in a coal extraction mine showed that more than 40 percent of all miners suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Noise levels were generally found to exceed the maximum noise level limits of 87 dB established by the European directive of 2006.

By law, when noise levels exceed 87 dB in a working environment, the appropriate hearing protection should be made available. However, in the mine sector wearing hearing protection may prevent the workers from hearing emergency signals inside the mine.

In addition, hearing loss has not been recognised as a primary occupational injury for miners. Diseases from silicosis exposure among other potential occupational conditions were considered more important.

Action to be taken

The high percentage of hearing loss found among miners in Spain points to an urgent need for a comprehensive study on noise in coal mines. The Spanish Ministry of Industry and the Regional Ministry of Health in Asturias plan to carry out a project to analyze the best way to apply the European regulations in this sector.

The study was carried out by the National Institute of Silicosis in Oviedo, Spain.

Source: La Nueva España, 3 October, 2007.

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