printech, March, 2004
Running an Effective Hearing Conservation Program, part I

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From: Gary Jones ( )
Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 23:18:56

FYI - From Occupational Health and Safety at

Checklist: Running an Effective Hearing Conservation Program, part I

According to OSHA, noise is one of the most pervasive occupational health problems. Approximately 30 million people in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise at work, and about 10 million people have noise-induced hearing loss, nearly all of which was caused by occupational exposures. Fortunately, a good hearing conservation program can significantly reduce or eliminate this problem.

NIOSH offers this checklist to help employers ensure their hearing conservation programs are as effective as possible.

Training and Education

Failures or deficiencies in hearing conservation programs (hearing loss prevention programs) can often be traced to inadequacies in the training and education of noise-exposed employees and those who conduct elements of the program.

1. Is training conducted at least once a year?
2. Is the training provided by a qualified instructor?
3. Is the success of each training program evaluated?
4. Is the content revised periodically?
5. Are managers and supervisors directly involved?
6. Are posters, regulations, handouts and employee newsletters used as supplements?
7. Are personal counseling sessions conducted for employees having problems with hearing protection devices or showing hearing threshold shifts?

Supervisor Involvement

Data indicate that employees who refuse to wear hearing protectors or who fail to show up for hearing tests frequently work for supervisors who are not totally committed to the hearing loss prevention programs.

1. Have supervisors been provided with the knowledge required to supervise the use and care of hearing protectors by subordinates?
2. Do supervisors wear hearing protectors in appropriate areas?
3. Have supervisors been counseled when employees resist wearing protectors or fail to show up for hearing tests?
4. Are disciplinary actions enforced when employees repeatedly refuse to wear hearing protectors?

Noise Measurement

For noise measurements to be useful, they need to be related to noise exposure risks or the prioritization of noise control efforts, rather than merely filed away. In addition, the results need to be communicated to the appropriate personnel, especially when follow-up actions are required.

1. Are the essential/critical noise studies performed?
2. Is the purpose of each noise study clearly stated? Are noise-exposed employees notified of their exposures and appraised of auditory risks?
3. Are the results routinely transmitted to supervisors and other key individuals?
4. Are results entered into health/medical records of noise-exposed employees?
5. Are results entered into shop folders?
6. If noise maps exist, are they used by the proper staff?
7. Are noise measurement results considered when contemplating procurement of new equipment? Modifying the facility? Relocating employees?
8. Have there been changes in areas, equipment or processes that have altered noise exposure? Have follow-up noise measurements been conducted?
9. Are appropriate steps taken to include (or exclude) employees in the hearing loss prevention programs whose exposures have changed significantly?

Engineering and Administrative Controls

Controlling noise by engineering and administrative methods is often the most effective means of reducing or eliminating the hazard. In some cases engineering controls will remove requirements for other components of the program, such as audiometric testing and the use of hearing protectors.

1. Have noise control needs been prioritized?
2. Has the cost-effectiveness of various options been addressed?
3. Are employees and supervisors appraised of plans for noise control measures? Are they consulted on various approaches?
4. Will in-house resources or outside consultants perform the work?
5. Have employees and supervisors been counseled on the operation and maintenance of noise control devices?
6. Are noise control projects monitored to ensure timely completion?
7. Has the full potential for administrative controls been evaluated? Are noisy processes conducted during shifts with fewer employees? Do employees have sound-treated lunch or break areas?

Monitoring Audiometry and Record Keeping

The skills of audiometric technicians, the status of the audiometer and the quality of audiometric test records are crucial to hearing loss prevention program success. Useful information may be ascertained from the audiometric records as well as from those who actually administer the tests.
1. Is the audiometric technician adequately trained, certified and recertified as necessary?
2. Do on-the-job observations of the technicians indicate that they perform a thorough and valid audiometric test, instruct and consult the employee effectively and keep appropriate records?
3. Are records complete?
4. Are follow-up actions documented?
5. Are hearing threshold levels reasonably consistent from test to test? If not, are the reasons for inconsistencies investigated promptly?
6. Are the annual test results compared to a baseline to identify the presence of an OSHA standard threshold shift?
7. Is the annual incidence of standard threshold shift greater than a few percent? If so, are problem areas pinpointed and remedial steps taken?
8. Are audiometric trends (deteriorations) being identified, both in individuals and in groups of employees? (NIOSH recommends no more than 5 percent of workers showing 15 dB Significant Threshold Shift, same ear, same frequency.)
9. Do records show that appropriate audiometer calibration procedures have been followed?
10. Is there documentation showing that the background sound levels in the audiometer room were low enough to permit valid testing?
11. Are the results of audiometric tests being communicated to supervisors and managers as well as to employees?
12. Has corrective action been taken if the rate of no-shows for audiometric test appointments is more than about 5 percent?
13. Are employees incurring STS notified in writing within 21 days? (NIOSH recommends immediate notification if retest shows 15 dB Significant Threshold Shift, same ear, same frequency.)

Next week, part II of this checklist will address referrals, hearing protection devices and administrative matters.

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