How to Avoid Noise Hazards at Your Veterinary Practice

It is often said that, “safety doesn’t happen by accident.” How many times have you been a part of or witnessed a workplace accident? Probably more than you’d care to admit. Even with the shifting landscape, our veterinary hospitals will never be without people, and where there’s people, there will always be accidents. 

A common, but often overlooked, hazard in the veterinary workplace is hazardous noise levels. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year, and veterinary professionals are no exception. Common sources of noise in the veterinary setting that may be above recommended levels include barking dogs in kennels or runs, loud equipment such as dental prophylaxis machines, the drill during oral surgery and cage dryers or clippers used during grooming. Some indications that noise may be a workplace hazard in your hospital if: 

  • You or colleague must shout to be heard when an arm’s length away
  • You hear humming, ringing or buzzing in your ears after leaving work
  • You experience temporary hearing loss after leaving work

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has supplied a tool available to the public to download on a mobile iOS device that measures sound levels within your workplace environment. The Sound Level Meter App then provides a noise exposure reading to help determine if workplace noises are at health risk levels. 

Preventing hazardous noise in the workplace is crucial to protect employees from potential hearing damage or impairment. Here are steps to mitigate noise hazards:

  1. Administrative Controls:

    • Limit the time employees spend in noisy areas by rotating work schedules or tasks.
    • Create quiet zones or areas where employees can take breaks from noise exposure.
    • Establish clear protocols for employees working in noisy environments, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and regular health check-ups.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

    • Provide and enforce the use of appropriate hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs.
    • Train employees on the proper use, maintenance, and limitations of hearing protection devices.
  3. Noise Monitoring and Assessment:

    • Conduct regular noise assessments to identify areas with high noise levels and determine if further controls are needed.
    • Use noise monitoring equipment to measure and track noise levels, ensuring they comply with occupational health and safety standards.
  4. Employee Training and Awareness:

    • Educate employees about the risks of exposure to hazardous noise and the importance of protecting their hearing.
    • Train employees on how to properly use, fit, and maintain their hearing protection devices.