Noise and hearing loss risk should be a significant concern for employers with noisy workplaces.
They have a “duty of care” to ensure workers are not injured by exposure to risks, such as excessive noise levels.
An effective noise control and hearing conservation program can take many forms. The popular approach to hearing loss risk management is simple…
- Put in place a measure of a workers hearing through audiometric testing – the 1st audiometric test is called the baseline hearing test.
- At regular intervals (at least 2 yearly) re-test each worker – this is known as a subsequent hearing test, and
- Compare the subsequent results with their baseline results
- Identify any hearing loss trends in individuals, group of workers or even specific roles where there is a higher exposure to noise.
Patterns of change can be an indication that noise at work has caused some injury or damage requiring investigation before the amount of hearing loss triggers a workers compensation claim.
Patterns of hearing loss among groups of workers can be indication that a particular area/task/role requires further noise control and management.
For WHS/HSE Managers, audiometric testing reports that show trends in percentage hearing loss , especially across work areas or roles, are a valuable risk management tool. CHP provides this audiometric reporting and can produce specific reports upon request to support your risk management and hearing health surveillance program. See example of these reports
Further noise risk management options may also include Ear Plug Fit Testing
A risk management program such as the one described, above could also be the major component of a more comprehensive Hearing Conservation program.
Hearing Conservation Program
Hearing conservation programs are designed to prevent noise induced hearing loss..
A hearing conservation program is aimed at achieving the safe management of noise within a workplace.
A Hearing Conservation program can include:
- A noise survey or noise assessment
- Audiometric testing at commencement of work and 2 yearly thereafter
- Health surveillance (comparing hearing test results over time)
- Fit Testing (testing individuals ear plug fit to ensure they are providing the noise attenuation required)
- A Hearing Safety Seminar – a seminar, or tool box talk, aimed at meeting your “Duty of Care” hazard education requirements. This provides awareness to onsite noise hazards, what they can do to your well-being, how and when you should protect yourself and how to safely and hygienically use Personal Hearing Protection (PHP).
An effective noise control and hearing conservation program is an on-going program.
Workplace machinery should be maintained, maximum noise levels should be specified for new machinery and building extensions and alterations should be planned taking noise into account.
In accordance with WorkSafe requirements, a noise survey should be conducted at least every 5 years, or when new plant or equipment is installed or workshop structures change.
Where high noise levels cannot be reduced, the next step is to reduce the exposure to the noise. This could mean both reducing the number of workers in the area of the noise and reducing the period for which they are exposed. Options include:
- scheduling the noisy work for times when as few workers as possible are present;
- isolating the noisy machinery from as many workers as possible
- using job rotation where practical to alternate noisy tasks with quiet ones and reduce the overall sound energy experienced in a shift.
A valuable measure of the success of your Hearing Conservation and noise control program can be obtained through the regular audiometric testing of workers exposed to noise. Comparing audiometric testing results over time can show up any trends of hearing loss.
With our audiometric testing reports, hearing loss trends can be measured across departments, roles, work areas and for individuals. As hearing loss usually occurs in the high frequencies first, the noise may be able to be reduced before the damage spreads to the range vital to communication.
Regular audiometric testing also provides a unique opportunity for 1:1 education of workers on safe working practices, including the consistent use of their hearing protection.
This usually leads to greater interest and concern for hearing and provides the opportunity to answer individual concerns about noise control and hearing conservation precautions.
Ear plug fit testing
Work Health Professionals provide a fit testing service to measure the fit of your workers’ preferred hearing protection.
Find out more about 1:1 ear plug fit testing to ensure your workers are getting the right protection from their personal hearing protection.