3M Earplugs – Are Workers Who Use Them at Risk of Hearing Loss or Injuries?
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. In fact, OSHA reported that over 20% of workplace fatalities in 2017 took place in the construction business.
It is not surprising that construction accidents can lead to a variety of serious injuries. According to the NYC Department of Buildings, there have been in over 437 construction accidents in New York City through September of 2019. Physically demanding jobs on construction sites also involve a lot of wear and tear on the body.
One common ailment among construction workers that is often overlooked is hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Among Workers Exposed to Hazardous Noise
Construction workers often have to withstand a barrage of loud noises throughout their workday. In fact, the CDC found that over 50% of all construction workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise.
But construction workers are not the only ones who can be exposed to unsafe noise levels. Other workers who are likely to face this danger include:
- Iron and metal workers
- Manufacturing workers, and
- Highway maintenance workers.
Workers in any field where loud noise is common are at risk of health problems like hearing loss and tinnitus.
Unfortunately, these problems are rarely curable and can worsen over time. Worse still, the symptoms are usually hard to detect initially, but can become severe over time.
In some cases, suffering from hearing problems will take a psychological toll on the affected person, causing them to withdraw and become depressed or anxious.
In certain jobs, hearing loss can have a snowball effect on workplace injuries. Difficulty hearing can lead to difficulty communicating on the job site – this makes the workplace more dangerous for everyone.
3M E-A-R Arc Earplugs
Many construction and industrial workers rely on earplugs made by 3M to protect their ears from harmful noise. One model, the E-A-R Arc Earplugs, is especially common.
The E-A-R Arc Earplugs are dual-ended, with one side designed to block out all noise and one side designed to block out only very loud sounds. The latter would allow workers to communicate with each other while remaining safe from dangerous noise.
Unfortunately, these earplugs have not worked as well as they were supposed to for some workers.
It seems as though a defect in the design of the earplugs may allow them to come loose without warning. This leaves the worker exposed, sometimes without them even being aware.
As a result, many workers have suffered injuries related to noise exposure, including hearing loss and tinnitus, despite believing the 3M earplugs would protect them.
3M Earplug Lawsuits by Veterans
It turns out that a very similar earplug designed by 3M is the subject of hundreds of lawsuits filed by military veterans.
The dual-sided 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were distributed to military personnel between 2003 and 2015. However, the earplugs were defective and unsafe. Sadly, many service members returned home with hearing problems and tinnitus because of the inadequate earplugs.
During a whistleblower lawsuit, it was discovered that 3M was aware of the defect in their earplugs but did nothing to correct the problem. Although their own test results indicated the earplugs were faulty, they faked the certifications needed to sell to the military. 3M ended up paying $9.1 million to the U.S. government to settle the dispute.
Now, hundreds of veterans are filing their own lawsuits against 3M. The problems they face are significant and can require ongoing treatment for the rest of their lives. Therefore, 3M may ultimately be on the hook for a significant amount of compensation.
Similarity Between the Military and Civilian Earplugs
3M pulled from distribution the defective earplugs it provided to the military. However, it is still selling the E-A-R- Arc earplugs to workers across the country.
The civilian version of the earplug is a different color scheme (red and yellow instead of black and green). The design, however, is the same. Thus, workers are having very much the same problems that the veterans did.
Because of the similarities, 3M is likely to face an onslaught of lawsuits from workers who suffered hearing injuries. Whether worker lawsuits will follow the same path as the veterans’ is unknown, but if you have been affected by the defective earplugs, it is recommended that you speak to an attorney about your rights.