What is a Hearing Conservation Program?

Workplace Hearing Conservation Program

High levels of occupational noise exposure can be linked to direct impacts on human health, including permanent hearing loss and psychological stress. These impacts can lead to a reduction in productivity, communication interference, lost concentration, and workplace accidents and injuries. Industries, including manufacturing, construction, aviation, railroad, farming and entertainment, are known to be a source of higher levels of occupational noise exposures. A Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) can conduct workplace noise monitoring and mapping to identify high noise areas and processes that may lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and could trigger the threshold for the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) hearing conservation program. RHP’s noise monitoring services can provide solutions to reduce employee noise exposures or to fulfill OSHA compliance.

The successful implementation of occupational noise and hearing conservation programs can reduce or may eliminate the opportunity for noise-induced hearing loss. These programs monitor and control noise levels associated with certain activities and/or areas, and ensure workers are not exposed to unhealthy levels of noise. When workplace noise presents a risk, a detailed conservation program is the logical next step.

When Is Hearing Protection Mandatory?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends all workers use hearing protection when the surrounding noise levels exceeds 85 dBA over an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) (NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention). A-weighted decibels measure sound level recommendations for healthy listening. While the simpler dB scale calculates sound intensity, the dBA scale measures both intensity and how the human ear responds to noise.

Workers in environments over 140 dBA (single impulse noise) or 100 dBA during an 8-hour TWA must wear additional protection. An example of added protection is wearing earplugs together with a pair of earmuffs. Proactive companies incorporate programs that minimize noise exposure. (NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention: PPE)

OSHA Hearing Conservation Program

Once noise exposures reach the OSHA “Action Level” (8-hr TWA of 85 dBA), OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program. These programs break down into seven detailed sections including:

• Noise exposure monitoring: Employers must conduct vigorous tests to measure noise levels in the workplace and ensure the processes are effective and accurate. Various sound-measuring instruments can be used to measure workspace noise levels, including sound level meters, noise dosimeters and octave band analyzers.
• Engineering and administrative controls: These measures involve modifying or replacing equipment to reduce noise levels.
• Audiometric evaluation: Qualified individuals should administer noise and hearing tests to employees.
• Use of protective devices: An employer should evaluate individual workers for protection according to their specific needs, even if company-wide parameters exist.
• Education and motivation: The educational and motivational components are valuable for both management and employees to understand that a successful hearing loss prevention program takes commitment, communication and cooperation.
• Record keeping: Effective record keeping requires a consistent approach. Each program element generates its own record type, like noise survey forms, audiograms and medical histories.
• Program evaluation: A thorough review of all program components determines how well the hearing loss prevention program works.

How Can RHP Risk Management Help?

RHP Risk Management provides stationary screening and personal employee noise assessments to determine areas of potential over-exposure. We document areas with concerning noise levels that may require hearing protection or an employee’s inclusion in an OSHA-required hearing conservation program. We offer engineering-controlled solutions that can bring noise emissions below the regulatory levels. Call (773) 867-6010 and contact us today for more information about the services we provide.