OSHA, in partnership with NIOSH, recently released a new Safety and Health Information Bulletin, Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure, which warns of ototoxicity,  a potentially serious workplace hazard.

According to the report, exposure to chemicals, including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals, can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing chemically induced hearing loss and/or affect balance. This type of hazard can affect employees working across many industries, such as manufacturing, mining, utilities, construction, and agriculture.

Research has also shown that the risk of hearing loss is increased when employees are exposed to these types of chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and is dependent on the level of noise, the dose of the chemical, and the duration of the exposure.

OSHA’s bulletin provides recommendations to employers and safety professionals about identifying ototoxicants in the workplace and how to establish hearing conservation programs if chemicals cannot be replaced.  

According to OSHA and NIOSH, industrial hygienists, occupational health professionals, and safety managers should: