Summary Statement

A manual that helps a trainer provide information on a variety of roadway hazards, such as electrical, falls, slips and trips and ergonomics. Part of a collection. Click on the 'collection' button to access the other items.

This document is one in a program produced under an OSHA grant by a consortium of the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund N.A, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the American Road and Transportation Builders Assn, and the National Asphalt Pavement Assn. All of the documents from this set that are on eLCOSH can be found by clicking on Job Site, Heavy construction, and scrolling to the Street & highway heading. Or to download a complete version of the computerized program, go to

Is Too Much Noise a Serious Problem?

Noise is probably one of the most common hazards in construction. But it often goes unrecognized because hearing loss creeps up on you. It doesn't happen all at once.

When you are exposed to too much noise, you can lose your hearing. You can also lose your life. On the job:
  • Noise can distract you. You may not hear warnings.
  • Noise damages the nerves in the inner ear. The nerves cannot be repaired.
After 15 to 20 years in the trade:
  • You may suffer permanent hearing loss.
  • You may suffer constant ringing (tinnitus).
Some of the most common noise sources in road construction are:
  • heavy equipment,
  • pile driving,
  • pavement breakers,
  • compressors,
  • other noise sources.
Fig. NH-1
Fig. NH-1. Noise can distract you and cause permanent hearing loss.

Fig. NH-2.
Fig. NH-2. There are many noise sources in road construction work.


Ask trainees: Do you know any co-workers with hearing loss? Family members? Grandparents?

Hearing experts say that our ears have a finite lifetime capacity for noise exposure. Even lower levels of noise use up this capacity. Exposure to higher levels of noise for continuous periods uses up your lifetime capacity too soon.

After years of too much noise, the nerve cells in the inner ear die. You slowly loose the ability to hear and understand speech. Then suddenly you realize you are hearing impaired.

Ask trainees: What are other noise sources? Examples: traffic, compactors, and milling machines.

Discuss non-occupational noise exposures and the need to protect from them as well (lawn mowers, rock concerts, headphones, motorcycles).

Could Road Work Be Less Noisy?

Yes. There are efforts being made by engineers, manufacturers, and contractors to make road construction more quiet. Noise levels can be reduced by:
  • buying/renting less noisy equipment,
  • keeping equipment well maintained,
  • trying to isolate noisy equipment,
  • keeping equipment well maintained, and
  • using sound barriers around equipment.
How Do We Protect Our Hearing Now?

Wear hearing protectors. If you must shout to talk with someone 3 feet away, you need protection from noise:
  • Use hearing protectors provided by your employer.
  • Notify employer if proper hearing protection is not available.
  • Make sure hearing protection fits and is comfortable.
  • Follow instructions for proper hearing protection use.
  • Get a baseline hearing test. Then test about once a year so you'll know your hearing protection is working.
Fig. NH-3
Fig. NH-3. There are many new and effective ways to reduce noise in road construction.

Fig. NH-4.
Fig. NH-4. PPE and hearing tests.


DEMONSTRATION: Use a sound level meter (an inexpensive meter can be purchased from Radio Shack for about $35) to show trainees how it measures sound levels. Use it to measure non-occupational noise sources.

What are some early signs of hearing loss? Have you ever driven home with the car radio on and when you started it up the next morning it blasts in your face? You probably experienced some temporary hearing loss that previous day. Or do you have to turn up the TV to listen and your family complains that it's too loud? Or do you have a hard time hearing conversation in a noisy room or on the job site? If so, these may be early signs of hearing loss.

Hearing loss often comes on gradually and unnoticed. That's why hearing tests are so important.

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