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No more deaf ears

Everyone knows that noise can cause lasting harm. The Norwegian authorities are now seeking action on this issue.

“We’re concerned about trends in the petroleum industry for hearing damage caused by noisy conditions,” says principal engineer Ola Kolnes, who heads the PSA’s offensive here.

The agency will be challenging the industry to give priority to specific improvement measures. Plenty is known about noise conditions offshore and on land, with detailed data on exposure.

“It’s now time to implement technical measures which can reduce the risk to groups most exposed to noise,” says Mr Kolnes.

“We know from good one-off projects that it’s possible to achieve a lot even where solutions were thought to be unobtainable.”

Groups of contractor employees appear to have the greatest exposure to noise. However, the paradox is that health and working environment follow-up seems to be poorer for them than for operator personnel.

Far fewer of these workers get qualified hearing measurement and assessment than those in operator companies, which is also likely to mean under-reporting of hearing damage.

Groups of contractor employees are typically exposed to noise while working with angle grinders, high-pressure water jets and other equipment. Mr Kolnes notes that great opportunities exist for technology development in this area.

Frame conditions are also significant for noise risk. The PSA has seen that contracts often require contractors to meet the cost of withdrawing their personnel from noisy areas where working hours are restricted.

In practice, this means that pressure is put on groups of contractor personnel to work longer in such zones.

“We now expect the industry to make a special effort to overcome the noise problem,” says Mr Kolnes.

Dangerously loud
Noise levels have been well surveyed in the petroleum industry.

Here are some of the hard facts.