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Written by Brent Knight, President of ISS

I would like to change things up and discuss a topic that is often ignored. That topic is hearing protection.

I will start out by saying that I am guilty of ignoring and taking my hearing for granted when I was younger. I listened to music as loud as my stereo would play and did not wear hearing protection when I should have. I am paying for those decisions today.

In my 30 years in the safety profession, I have found that people take things much or seriously when they can identify immediate consequences. As an example, they will wear their fall protection when working in a precarious situation or make sure that their ladder is properly secured when they know that they are going to be 20 feet up in the air.

These are good examples of behaviors that are motivated by a fear of loss or imminent injury. Often, the same cannot be said for hazards that may not have immediate consequences. A great example of this is hearing loss.

From my experience, you don’t really appreciate your hearing until you start to lose it. When you do, you wish that you would have done much more to protect it when you had the chance. Another life example of this would be flossing and healthy gums. Many don’t floss when they are young and eventually start to take care of their teeth as they age and don’t have a choice.

As safety professionals, it is our duty to create a sense of awareness around this issue and influence people to look at all hazards from the perspective of consequences. Whether acute or chronic, these consequences will affect our quality of life and we will kick ourselves in our older years for not doing more to protect ourselves when we were younger.

Remember, people are motivated by one of two things, a hope for gain or a fear of loss. It is our job as leaders to influence one of these two and help people realize that consequences are most often permanent, regardless of timelines.