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Critique of a Study on Ergonomics

“Effectiveness of an Intervention to Increase Construction Workers’ Use of Hearing Protection” is a study on ergonomics which deals with proving the effectiveness of hearing protection devices for construction workers. “Hearing damage is one of the most common occupational diseases… affecting workers in manufacturing, construction, transportation, agriculture, and the military.” (Barth, George, Hill, & American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2002) The study states that “exposure to hazardous noise in the workplace is a problem for more than 30 million workers in the United States” (Lusk, Hong, Ronis, Eakin, Kerr, &Early, 1999); it emphasizes the necessity of wearing hearing protection devices such as “ear muffs or ear plugs” (Bahr, Stallcup, & National Fire Protection Association, 2003), for construction workers. The study in general is aimed at making the working conditions for construction workers safer but it does not take into account that hearing protection devices have many limitations including occlusion effect, horizontal localization of sound, and low audibility of warning sounds.

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To begin with, the study asserts that the use of hearing protection devices is beneficial for construction workers. It is hard to disagree that “construction workers are particularly at risk of occupational noise-induced hearing loss” (Lingard & Rowlinson, 2005), but the use of hearing protection devices may be far more harmful to them because of the occlusion effect. “The occlusion effect is the improvement in low-frequency bone-conduction thresholds on closing the ear canal.” (Valente, Hosford-Dunn, & Roeser, 2008) It results in echoing the sound and enhancing low-frequency sounds, which may cause hazardous situations at the construction site.

Secondly, using hearing protection devices involves horizontal localization of sound, which also makes their use dangerous. Several studies indicate that “left-right sound localization deteriorates as the HPD system provides greater overall attenuation. Such a system may be when two HPDs are worn concurrently, such as an earplug and earmuff.” (Valente et al, 2008) Horizontal localization of sound is harmful to the health of construction workers and may make the work at the construction site unsafe. This proves that wearing hearing protection devices may be of more danger than benefit for the construction workers.

Finally, the increased use of hearing protection devices may also increase the number of accidents among the construction workers because HPDs lower the audibility of warning sounds. It is true that without HPDs construction workers are subjected to constant noise which may lead to loss of their hearing ability with time. “Most workers in occupational settings do have some sensorineural hearing loss, whether from noise exposure, presbycusis, or other causes.” (Valente et al, 2008) However, losing one’s hearing is less dangerous than missing the warning sound while working. HPDs may hinder the warning signal passage, which is dangerous for the life of construction workers.

Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, it can be concluded that the researchers who conducted the study “Effectiveness of an Intervention to Increase Construction Workers’ Use of Hearing Protection” are mistaken in their idea that the increase in the use of hearing protection devices will make the work of construction workers safer. Other studies on the use of HPDs concluded that their use may be dangerous for the life and work of construction workers due to the occlusion effect, horizontal localization of sound, and low audibility of warning sounds, which may increase the number of accidents at the construction site.

References

Bahr, M., Stallcup, J., & National Fire Protection Association. (2003). Osha Stallcup’s Construction Regulations Simplified: Stallcup’s Construction Regulations Simplified. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Barth, R.C., George, P.D., Hill, R.H., & American Industrial Hygiene Association. (2002). Environmental Health and Safety for Hazardous Waste Sites. AIHA.

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Lingard, H. & Rowlinson, S.M. (2005). Occupational Health and Safety in Construction Project Management. Taylor & Francis.

Lusk, S.L., Hong, O.S., Ronis, D.L., Eakin, B.L., Kerr, M.J., Early, M.R., & Human Factors. (1999). Effectiveness of an Intervention to Increase Construction Workers’ Use of Hearing Protection. Human Factors, 41(3),487.

Valente, M., Hosford-Dunn, H., & Roeser, R.J. (2008). Audiology. Thieme.

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StudyCorgi. "Critique of a Study on Ergonomics." November 22, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/critique-of-a-study-on-ergonomics/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Critique of a Study on Ergonomics." November 22, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/critique-of-a-study-on-ergonomics/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Critique of a Study on Ergonomics'. 22 November.

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