The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires noise in the workplace to be below 90 decibels over an 8 hour shift (a method called time weighted average is used for this measurement). If the noise is measured at 85 decibels or above, the employer must have a Hearing Conservation Program for employees in those work areas (a standard lawnmower puts out about 85 db of noise).
There are 5 steps in the Hearing Conservation Program:
- Reduce noise produced by machines by adding noise insulation.
- Monitor the noise levels to determine if they exceed safe levels (85 db). Individual and departmental exposure to noise is monitored under the direction of Vanderbilt Environmental Health and Safety.
- Provide noise reducing products such as ear plugs or muffs to staff who work in a noisy area
- Educate employees about the effects of high noise levels on hearing and teach them how to prevent hearing loss by using noise reducing products.
- Monitor staff with a hearing test to determine if additional measures are needed.
Facts about hearing loss caused by high noise levels
- Noise induced hearing loss can be temporary or permanent.
- Temporary hearing loss results from short-term exposures to noise, with normal hearing returning after a period of rest.
- Continued exposure to high noise levels over a period of time gradually causes permanent damage.
- A significant change in hearing is called a Standard Threshold Shift (STS).
Do I need training in the Hearing Conservation Program?
Training is very important for all employees in the Hearing Conservation Program.
Anyone who has potential exposure to occupational noise is required to undergo initial and annual training . Employees who understand the reasons for the Hearing Conservation Program and the need to protect their hearing will be more likely to wear hearing protection and be in compliance with their baseline and annual hearing tests. Training includes the effects of noise; the purpose, advantages, and disadvantages of various types of hearing protection; the selection, fit, and care of their hearing protection; and the purpose and procedures of a hearing test.
Keywords: hearing, hearing loss, hearing test, hearing conservation, audiometry, audiogram, STS, Standard Threshold Shift, OSHA