Risk assessment of recordable occupational hearing loss in the mining industry

Objective: To evaluate the hearing loss risk in different sectors and subunits in the mining industry and to identify associated occupations, in an attempt to locate gaps between hearing conservation efforts and hearing loss risks.Design: Descriptive statistics and frequency tables were generated by commodity types, subunit operations, and/or occupations. Temporal trends of the incidences of hearing loss were reported by commodity types.Study Sample: The MSHA Accident/Injury/Illness and MSHA Address/Employment databases from 2000 to 2014 were used.Results: Incidence rate of OHL was reported highest in the coal sector compared to other commodity types. Those members of the workforce that entered the mining industry after the year 2000 accounted for 6.5% and 19.0% of the total hearing loss records for coal and non-coal, respectively. High-risk occupations found in all three commodity sectors (coal; stone, sand, and gravel; and metal/non-metal) were electrician/helper/wireman, mechanic/repairman/helper, bulldozer/tractor operator, and truck driver.Conclusion: Hearing loss risks were not uniform across mining sectors, subunit operations, and occupations. In addition to the continuous efforts of implementing engineering controls to reduce machinery sound level exposure for operators, a multi-level approach may benefit those occupations with a more dynamic exposure profile – e.g., labour/utilityman/bullgang, electrician/helper/wireman, and mechanic/repairman/helper.