In the workplace, noise is common and sometimes welcomed. When noise becomes repeated, the unprotected worker can experience hearing loss. This hazard has been around for many years, but it is one of the most overlooked dangers in any industry.
OSHA requires employers to create and implement a Hearing Conservation Program when their employees are exposed to an 8 – Hour Time-Weighted Average (TWA) of 85 decibels (db) or higher. For a hearing conservation program to be effective the program should consist of these parts:
- Noise Monitoring – OSHA requires monitoring of work areas to identify employees who are exposed to 85 db TWA, or higher. Records of monitoring should be kept for a minimum of 2 years.
- Engineering and Administrative Controls – If monitoring determines the sound levels exceed 100 db TWA, the employer must identify what engineering or environmental changes, such as soundproofing, can be made to reduce noise exposure.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Employees working in areas where noise is 85 db TWA or higher, must be provided with appropriate hearing protectors, such as earplugs, ear muffs, ear canal caps, AT NO COST TO THE EMPLOYEE.
- Audiometric Testing – All employees exposed to 85 db TWA or higher MUST have a baseline audiogram within 6 months of the first exposure, and every year after that.
- Employee Training – Supervisors must conduct annual training sessions for employees on the proper use of Hearing Protection.
Employees should have training on the signs and symptoms of Hearing Loss, which include:
- Persistent ringing in their ears
- Difficulty hearing soft sounds like the ticking of a watch
- Complaints from the family that the employee constantly plays a radio or TV too loud.