Noise at Work? Prevention is the Solution!

Text by: Fiocruz and INAD Brazil Teams

Each year, the International Day on Noise Awareness campaign in Brazil (INAD Brazil) selects a theme and a motto to emphasize the impact of noise on daily life, focusing on the damages and precautions associated with a specific aspect. In 2024, the theme is workplace noise and its effects on health, with the motto:

  • “Noise at work? Prevention is the solution!”

With this motto, INAD Brazil aims to:

  1. Contribute to raising awareness about the health effects of noise on workers;
  2. Highlight the importance of preventing exposure to noise for worker health;
  3. Address how workplace environment characteristics influence sound propagation and exposure; and
  4. Present aspects of sound environment management that aid in prevention.

For many years, noise has been recognized as a significant health hazard for workers. Internationally, it has been the focus of concern for agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the French National Research and Safety Institute (INRS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), leading to the development of significant action plans aimed at controlling it. In Brazil, noise management policy covers both environmental and workplace noise, regulated by specific legislation and standards.

Globally, noise is reported as the primary source of annoyance among workers. Exposure to noise can lead to both direct and indirect effects.

The direct effects include temporary or permanent hearing loss (deafness). Indirect effects are headaches, dizziness, fatigue, tinnitus, concentration difficulties, muscle tension, elevated blood pressure, nausea, increased heart rate, irritability, impotence, and stress.

Moreover, working in a noisy environment can increase the risk of workplace accidents due to:

  • Masking of warning signals;
  • Communication difficulties;
  • Challenges in maintaining attention and concentration; and
  • Effects on sleep, stress, and excessive fatigue.

The INAD Brazil 2024 campaign also aims to raise awareness about the combined effect of exposure to noise and ototoxic substances in the workplace. This means alerting workers to the risks they face concerning hearing issues, which can be exacerbated when noise exposure is combined with certain metals, asphyxiants, organic solvents, and medications.

The motto “Noise at work? Prevention is the solution!” underscores the need to adopt a preventive approach to safeguard worker health. Whenever possible, actions should focus on noise reduction, and the purchase of equipment should always consider the lowest sound emission.

It is noted that exposure to moderate levels of noise, although not necessarily resulting in hearing loss, can cause discomfort and, as a result, lead to tension, irritability, cardiovascular diseases, and other undesirable effects associated with noise. Therefore, in workplace environments, while labor legislation covers unhealthy noise levels focused on hearing loss (NR 15), it is also important to consider the levels of discomfort appropriate to the type of activity (see the Brazilian standard NBR 10152:2020).

In 2024, INAD will be celebrated on April 24. From 2:15 PM to 2:16 PM, we will observe 60 seconds of silence to highlight the impact of noise in our lives. 🔖 Mark your calendars! Stay tuned; although the campaign’s name suggests “one day”, as in all years, we encourage the promotion of activities throughout the year, sustainably rather than sporadically, given our goal to foster habit changes in the general population. Participate, echo the motto “Noise at work? Prevention is the solution!”

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