If the noise is evaluated at or above the action level (85 dBA TWA), then it is required
that employers provide the following to affected employees:
- Annual hearing tests
- Annual hearing conservation training
- Hearing protection devices
- Posted OSHA Noise Standard (29 CFR 1910.95)
- Area signage indicating required use of hearing protection
- Notification of the results of the sound survey
If the Noise level exceeds 90 dBA, the OSHA Noise Standard requires that engineering
and administrative control measures must be investigated, evaluated and where feasible,
utilized to reduce employee exposures. It is important that any measure investigated,
utilized, or evaluated to reduce the noise levels be documented.
Engineering Controls to Reduce Noise Exposure
When eliminating or substituting the noise source by purchasing quieter equipment
in not feasible, the following engineering controls should be initiated:
- Contact the equipment manufacturer for noise abatement suggestions
- Dampen or reduce surface vibration
- Install enclosures or sound insulation materials
Administrative Controls to Reduce Noise Exposure
When engineering measures alone cannot reduce the noise below 90 dBA, administrative
methods may be used to minimize employee exposure such as:
- Scheduling worker rotation from high noise levels to quiet areas
- Limiting the time for certain operations
- Increasing the distance between the employee and the noise source
- Relocation of job tasks which may be completed out of high noise areas
- Restricting access to work areas or operations
As with all types of PPE, they are used as a last resort after elimination, substitution,
engineering, and administrative controls have been investigated and implemented when
possible. PPE must be provided and used to reduce sound levels below 85 dBA. It
is also recommended to use hearing protectors while working in any noisy environment,
even when the noise levels are below the action level.
The proper use of hearing protection will prevent many types of hearing loss. You
must wear the required hearing protection properly and regularly to gain the benefits
of the protection. If you have any problems with the fit of your hearing protectors,
contact your supervisor or Safety & Risk Management.
The hearing protection used will depend on the operation, employee preference, and
attenuation required. Various types of hearing protectors are available including:
- Disposable earplugs
- Reusable earplugs
- Custom hearing protection
How to Properly Wear Hearing Protectors
It is an OSHA requirement that the employer ensure the proper initial fitting and
that the employer provide training in the use and care of all hearing protection provided
To prevent hearing loss, hearing protectors must be worn correctly and taken care
of per manufacturer recommendations. Keep ear plugs clean by washing them in warm
soapy water and be sure they are completely dry before inserting in the ears. Inspect
the hearing protection regularly. If it becomes damaged, hard, or worn out, replace
immediately with a new pair.
Because everyone has different size ear canals, each person will be fitted by a competent
person to ensure they receive the right size protector. Each employee will be instructed
on how to put their personal hearing protectors in and will also be given the chance
to practice. If there is a problem with the fit and comfort of your hearing protectors,
the supervisor will provide a different type of protection.
Care and Use of Hearing Protectors
The usable life of the hearing protector is dependent upon the care it is given. A
sponge type hearing protector is disposable; however, if it is kept clean it may be
used until it no longer expands. How long the hearing protection lasts is unique
to each employee depending on the chemical make-up of their body. In general, the
following guidelines apply:
- Sponge plugs: 1 or 2 days
- Custom plugs: 18-24 months
- Insert plugs: 4-6 months
- Muffs: Replace when worn out
Putting in earplugs only involves two steps: 1) Put your left arm over your head and with your left hand pull up on your right
ear. 2) with your right hand insert the ear plug into the right ear. Switch hands
and insert the other plug into the left ear in the same manner.
Hearing Conservation Training is required annually for all employees with noise exposures
of 85 dBA TWA or greater. The goal of the training is to orient employees to the
purpose of hearing protection, the use of hearing protection, and policy regarding
the hearing conservation program.
The following topics will be included in the employee training of the hearing conservation
- The effects of noise on hearing. Hearing loss can take many years to occur, and the
employee may not realize that gradual hearing loss is taking place. The loss occurs
without any pain and cannot be corrected by any known medical or surgical treatment.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that if you have to raise your voice at a distance
of three feet, you are in an area with a possible hazardous noise level. Repeated
unprotected noise exposure will cause permanent hearing loss. The hearing conservation
program has been established to ensure that if you ever have a standard threshold
shift, your noise exposure can be lessened by using engineering or administrative
controls or more effective hearing protection. Thus, the noise problem can be controlled.
- The purpose of the annual hearing test and an explanation of the test procedures.
- The purpose of the annual hearing test is to monitor your hearing. Periodic audiometric
testing provides an early warning of hearing disability. Factors such as noisy hobbies,
ear infections, diseases of the ear, as well as general illness may also cause hearing
loss. You will be notified of any changes in your hearing.
- The purpose of hearing protectors, instructions on selection, the advantages, disadvantages,
fitting use and care.