Occupational Noise Contributes to High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

April 02, 2018

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are more common among workers exposed to loud noise at work according to a CDC study published this month in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Researchers at CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also found that a quarter of US workers – an estimated 41 million people – reported a history of noise exposure at work.

“Reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention – it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Worksite health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers.”

High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol are key risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women. Loud noise is one of the most common workplace hazards in the US affecting about 22 million workers each year.

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty and heart conditions within US industries and occupations. They also looked at the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease. The analysis showed:

  • 25% of current workers had a history of work-related noise exposure; 14% were exposed in the last year.
  • 12% of current workers had hearing difficulty, 24% had high blood pressure and 28% had high cholesterol. Of these cases 58%, 14%, and 9%, respectively, can be attributed to occupational noise exposure.
  • Industries with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were mining (61%), construction (51%), and manufacturing (47%).
  • Occupations with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were production (55%); construction and extraction (54%); and installation, maintenance, and repair (54%).


 “A significant percentage of the workers we studied have hearing difficulty, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that could be attributed to noise at work,” said study co-author Liz Masterson, Ph.D. “If noise could be reduced to safer levels in the workplace, more than 5 million cases of hearing difficulty among noise-exposed workers could potentially be prevented. This study provides further evidence of an association of occupational noise exposure with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the potential to prevent these conditions if noise is reduced. It is important that workers be screened regularly for these conditions in the workplace or through a healthcare provider, so interventions can occur. As these conditions are more common among noise-exposed workers, they could especially benefit from these screenings.”

For more information on occupational hearing loss surveillance, including industry sector-specific statistics on hearing loss, tinnitus, noise exposure, and other information, please visit the Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance webpage. Visit the NIOSH website for guidelines and recommendations for employers and workers to help reduce noise exposure at the workplace.

$300,000 Penalty for New Hampshire Contractor

Luis Guallpa - doing business as Guallpa Contracting Corp. has been cited by OSHA – for exposing workers to fall and other hazards at a Nashua work site. The Milford, Massachusetts, roofing contractor faces $299,324 in proposed penalties.

OSHA inspectors observed six of Guallpa’s employees working on a roof without fall protection, and also observed workers using ladders unsafely, and failing to use head protection. The Agency cited the employer for exposing employees to fall hazards of up to 25 feet, for ladder and head protection violations, and for failing to provide effective training. OSHA cited Guallpa for similar hazards in 2014 and 2015.

“Fall protection is required when employees are working at heights of six feet or higher,” said Rosemarie Cole, OSHA New Hampshire Area Office Director. “This employer’s continued failure to follow safety standards is placing employees at risk of serious injury or death.” 

Tower King II Fined $12,934 for 3 Worker Deaths

OSHA has cited Tower King II, Inc. after three employees suffered fatal injuries while attempting to install a new antenna on a communications tower in Miami.

During the investigation, OSHA determined that a gin pole system – a device that attaches to a communications tower to hoist loads – failed, causing the employees to fall. Investigators determined that the employer failed to ensure the capacity of the rigging attachments were adequate to support the forces imposed from hoisting loads. The Texas-based tower contractor was issued one serious citation for exposing employees to fall and struck-by hazards. The company faces $12,934 in proposed penalties, the maximum allowed under law.

“This tragedy underscores the importance of having a qualified individual conduct an analysis before performing construction work on communication towers,” said Condell Eastmond, Fort Lauderdale OSHA Office Director Condell.

Pilot Reinstated After Unfair Termination for Reporting Safety Concerns

OSHA has ordered Jet Logistics, Inc. (JLI) and New England Life Flight, Inc. - doing business as Boston MedFlight (BMF) - to reinstate a pilot who lost his job after complaining about what he reasonably believed were violations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

While stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford in December 2015, the pilot first voiced to JLI and BMF his apprehension about whether a new scheduling policy would provide pilots with required FAA rest time. In January 2016, he contacted the FAA to register his concerns. He was terminated in March 2016 after he declined two flight assignments because he believed he had not been given the time to rest mandated by regulation.

An OSHA investigation concluded the pilot was terminated for reporting safety concerns, a protected activity under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing his personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation, the Agency also ordered JLI and BMF to pay the pilot $133,616.09 in back wages and interest; $100,000 in compensatory damages; reasonable attorney fees; and to refrain from retaliating against the employee. The employers must also post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under AIR21.

“This pilot should be commended - not penalized - for raising legitimate safety concerns that can affect him, his co-workers, and the general public,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA Boston-area Regional Administrator.

The order may be appealed to the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such action does not delay the effect of the preliminary reinstatement order.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of AIR21 and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.

RSB Construction Services, LLC Fined $154,000 for Lack of Fall Protection 

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) issued citations with penalties totaling $154,000 to RSB Construction Services, LLC located at 4520 Linden Creek Parkway in Flint. The citations are the outcome of MIOSHA Construction Safety and Health Division investigations involving two RSB Construction Services employees who fell on separate days from the same pole barn roof located in Goodrich. One employee died a few weeks later due to injuries sustained while the other employee sustained serious injuries.

The company was issued a total of one serious violation, two willful-serious violations and one other-than-serious violation for not providing fall protection for an employee engaged in roofing activities on a low sloped roof; not training employees in fall protection; and not coordinating an accident prevention program. The total combined penalty for both the fatality investigation and companion inspection is $154,000.

Nanotechnology Workplace Recommendations

Realizing the promise of any scientific advancement requires understanding of its potential human health effects, and its safe and responsible development, even at the level of engineered nanomaterials, which can be nearly atomic-sized. NIOSH launched four new products this week intended to provide options to companies for controlling possible exposure of their workers to nanomaterials on the job.

Engineered nanomaterials are intentionally produced to have at least one primary dimension less than 100 nanometers (nm). These very small particles have unique shapes and physical and chemical properties. These materials become desirable for specific product applications in areas including medicine, electronics, biomaterials, and consumer products. Workers in industries that use or make these uniquely engineered nanomaterials may inhale nanoparticles on a daily basis, posing a potential respiratory hazard.

“Researching, developing, and utilizing these nano properties is at the heart of new technology, just as worker safety is at the heart of what we do at NIOSH,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The information contained in these new workplace design solution documents provide employers with strategic steps towards making sure their employees stay safe while handling nanomaterials.”

The four new documents provide helpful recommendations on minimizing exposures during common processes and tasks, including:

  • handling and weighing of nanomaterials when scooping, pouring and dumping;
  • harvesting nanomaterials and cleaning out reactors after materials are produced;
  • processing of nanomaterials after production;
  • working with nanomaterials of different forms, including dry powders or liquids.


Each workplace design solutions document provides key tips on the design, use, and maintenance of exposure controls for nanomaterial production, post processing, and use. The poster poses questions that employers and workers should consider before starting work with a nanomaterial. For each question, the poster provides options to reduce exposures to nanomaterials based on the physical form. The poster can be displayed in a lab or work environment, making it an easily accessible reminder of the important health and safety considerations for working with nanomaterials.

To access the products, and for more information about nanotechnology research at NIOSH, please visit their website.

STAR Certification Awarded to Harris Rebar Mooresville

Harris Rebar Mooresville (Ambassador Steel Fabrication) achieved STAR certification in the Indiana Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The facility joins a selection of workplaces who have exceeded occupational safety and health expectations and demonstrated commitment to putting the well-being of Hoosier workers first.

“This small worksite is an example of excellence in occupational safety and health,” said Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Rick J. Ruble. “By successfully limiting injuries and illnesses, Ambassador Steel has truly earned certification in this state program.”

Harris Rebar’s Mooresville facility is the central Indiana arm of its national parent company, Harris Rebar, owned by Nucor Corporation. As a leading American company in the VPP program, Nucor is known for its corporation-wide support for excellence in workplace safety and health. The Mooresville facility employs 35 workers. Operations within the facility include manufacturing of structural rebar for the construction industry.

The facility’s average total case incident rate (TCIR) for the previous three years is 0.8 per 100 workers, 87% less than the Bureau of Labor Statistics national average of 5.8. The facility has only seen one OSHA-recordable incident in the past three years.

“Working safely is our highest priority and is part of our company’s DNA,” said Gary Richmond, Harris’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “I congratulate all of my fellow teammates at our Mooresville facility for this well-deserved recognition.”

Safety News Links 

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Female Construction Worker Injured After Falling Four Stories

OSHA Mandates Fall Harness Protection for ZT Mowers