Hearing Conservation Safety Training
Hearing Conservation Program (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 General Industry and/or 1926.101 Construction Standard): Occupational noise levels must be evaluated to determine if a hazard exists and if so, what controls must be implemented. If noise levels exceed OSHA standards, then a formal Hearing Conservation Program must be established, to include:
- Noise monitoring,
- Periodic hearing examinations, and
- Employee training.
What Monitoring is Required?
The hearing conservation program requires employers to monitor noise exposure levels in a way that accurately identifies employees exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels (dB) averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). Employers must monitor all employees whose noise exposure is equivalent to or greater than a noise exposure received in 8 hours where the noise level is constantly 85 dB.The exposure measurement must include all continuous, intermittent, and impulsive noise within an 80 dB to 130 dB range and must be taken during a typical work situation.This requirement is performance-oriented because it allows employers to choose the monitoring method that best suits each individual situation.
What is Audiometric Testing?
Audiometric testing monitors an employee’s hearing over time. It also provides an opportunity for employers to educate employees about their hearing and the need to protect it. The employer must establish and maintain an audiometric testing program. The important elements of the program include baseline audiograms, annual audiograms, training, and followup procedures. Employers must make audiometric testing available at no cost to all employees who are exposed to an action level of 85 dB or above, measured as an 8-hour TWA.
What Training is Required?
Employee training is very important. Workers who understand the reasons for the hearing conservation programs and the need to protect their hearing will be more motivated to wear their protectors and take audiometric tests. Employers must train employees exposed to TWAs of 85 dB and above at least annually in the effects of noise; the purpose, advantages, and disadvantages of various types of hearing protectors; the selection, fit, and care of protectors; and the purpose and procedures of audiometric testing. The training program may be structured in any format, with different portions conducted by different individuals and at different times, as long as the required topics are covered.
Review OSHA Publication 3074, Hearing Conservation Booklet below.
The Standard (1910.95) carries no requirement for a “written plan”. However, employers are required to maintain records of many employee activities and make them available upon request to OSHA and to your employees. To fulfill the requirements of the regulation, it is extremely helpful to have a written plan. (See sample program below)