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Occupational Health & Safety

Subject:

Approved by:

Date:

Noise Policy

Teresa M. Dominguez, 
Occupational Health & Safety Manager

08/24/94

For a summary of this policy click here.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. The University's Hearing Conservation Program
  4. Determining Noise Levels: Sound Survey
  5. Noise Control Methods
  6. Training and Education Methods
  7. Audiometric Testing
  8. Record Keeping
  9. Responsibilities
  1. Introduction

  2. The purpose of this policy is to define University requirements regarding noise in the workplace. These requirements, which are based on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standard Occupational Noise Exposure (29 CFR 1910.95), are designed to protect employees from hearing loss which could result from exposure to high levels of workplace noise. 

    The OSHA standard requires employers to implement a Hearing Conservation Program whenever employees are exposed to occupational noise levels above the OSHA action level (an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dBA). In compliance with the OSHA standard, this policy incorporates a Hearing Conservation Program with a primary objective of maintaining University work environments free from noise hazards that could lead to noise-induced hearing loss. 

    Several measures can be taken to prevent overexposure to workplace noise. The first step is to reduce the noise coming from the source itself. This may be accomplished through engineering or administrative controls, as described in section V of this policy. Whenever such controls are not feasible, or fail to adequately reduce workplace noise to safe levels, exposed employees will be included in the Hearing Conservation Program outlined in this policy. 

    The University also recognizes that some employees may be at-risk for damage to hearing from exposure to noise that is of lesser intensity/duration than the OSHA action levels. These employees could include those with previous noise exposure, as well as those with some degree of hearing loss from a variety of causes. While the University's policies and procedures are designed to identify and modify work environments that present a potential noise hazard, all employees are urged to self-identify known or possible hearing loss so that appropriate modifications and/or protection can be arranged.

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  3. Definitions

  4. Action Level - Noise exposure limits, as indicated in Table 1, above which exposed employees must be included in the Hearing Conservation Program. 

    Table 1

    ACTION LEVEL
    Sound Level (dBA) Duration per day (Hours)
    85 8
    90 4
    95 2
    100 1
    105 1/2
    110 1/4
    115 1/8

     

    At no time shall exposure to impact noise exceed 140 decibels (dB). 

    All employees who are exposed to workplace noise at or above these levels will be included in the University's Hearing Conservation Program.

    *Levels measured on the A-scale at slow response and without regard to hearing protection worn.
     
     

    Attenuation - Reduction in the loudness level. 

    Audiogram - A graph of the results of a hearing test. It shows how loud a sound has to be before an individual can hear it. The graph shows the results for sounds of varying frequencies. 

    Audiometric testing - A method of evaluating an exposed employee's changes in hearing over time. It consists of a baseline hearing test followed by annual testing. 

    Decibel (dB) - A unit of measurement of loudness of sound. 

    dBA - Decibel measurements read on the A-scale of a sound level meter. This scale more closely approximates human perception of sound levels. 

    Exposed employees - Employees whose work day routine exposes them to workplace noise at or above the action level

    Hearing Protective Devices (HPD's) - Individually worn devices, such as ear muffs and ear plugs, that attenuate (reduce) noise levels. 

    Potentially Hazardous Noise Environment - An environment in which workers must raise their voices in order to communicate while standing three feet away from each other. 

    Standard Threshold Shift - A change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10dB or more at 2000, 3000, and 4000Hz in either ear.

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  5. The University's Hearing Conservation Policy

    A. The Hearing Conservation Program at the University of Connecticut is designed to prevent noise-induced hearing loss through the use of engineering controls, administrative controls, hearing protective devices, annual audiometric testing and employee training. Employees exposed to workplace noise at or above the action level must be included in the Hearing Conservation Program. 

    B. Key elements of the Hearing Conservation Program:

    1. Identify hazardous noise environments in the workplace through sound surveys.

    2. Implement engineering and/or administrative controls to reduce workplace noise levels or worker exposure to noise.

    3. Provide hearing protective devices to exposed employees whenever such controls are not feasible or fail to reduce noise levels below the action level.

    4. Provide audiometric testing for exposed employees.

    5. Provide training for exposed employees.

     

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  6. Determining Noise Levels: Sound Survey

    The amount of potential damage to the ear is related to the intensity of noise and the duration of exposure. Sound surveys will be conducted to identify work environments in which the combination of noise level and exposure time could subject employees to noise at or above the action level. In performing sound surveys, two measuring devices may be used: the sound level meter and the dosimeter. The sound level meter measures a noise level at a given moment. The dosimeter measures the noise level over a period of time. Employees are entitled to observe these monitoring procedures if they so choose. 

    A. Basic Sound Survey: Initially, noise levels will be estimated using a sound level meter.

    1. If measurements show that maximum noise levels fall below the action level, no further steps are required.

    2. If measurements indicate noise levels are or could potentially be above the action level, a detailed sound survey is necessary.

    3. If sound level meter monitoring is too difficult due to high worker mobility or fluctuating noise levels, a detailed sound survey is necessary. 


    B. Detailed Sound Survey:
    Noise level measurements will be recorded over the course of a typical work day using dosimeters which will be worn by representative employees.

    1. If measurements indicate noise levels are below the action level, no further steps are required. However, use of engineering controls, administrative controls and/or hearing protective devices are encouraged.

    2. If measurements indicate noise levels are at or above the action level, identified exposed employees must be included in the Hearing Conservation Program. 


    C. Engineering Sound Surveys:
    If measurements in the detailed sound survey also prove to be high, a survey of individual units of equipment, or noise sources, will be conducted in order to determine the problem areas and types of engineering controls. 

    Notes:

    Ø Additional surveys should be requested if there is an increase in the use of noisy equipment or if activities or procedures change noise levels in the work environment. 

    Ø Employees exposed to noise levels at or above the action level must be notified of the noise survey results.

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  7. Noise Control Methods

  8. A. Engineering Controls

    The preferred method for reducing noise to safe levels is to implement engineering controls. Engineering controls modify the equipment producing the noise, the characteristics of the receiver's (exposed employee's) environment, or the path through which the noise travels. Some examples of engineering controls are the use of absorption materials, muffling devices and vibrational dampening equipment. If engineering controls successfully reduce noise to below the action level, affected employees will no longer be included in the Hearing Conservation Program. 

    B. Administrative Controls

    If engineering controls are not feasible or are ineffective, administrative controls, although sometimes less desirable, may be an alternative course of action. Administrative noise controls include replacement of old equipment with quieter new models, establishment of equipment maintenance programs and changes in employee work schedules to reduce noise doses by limiting exposure time. 

    C. Hearing Protective Devices (HPD's)

    1. Required Use

    When neither engineering nor administrative controls are feasible, or if they fail to reduce noise to acceptable levels, exposed employees must be included in the Hearing Conservation Program. As part of this program, employees must be issued and be required to wear HPD's. Prior to issuing HPD's, employees must be trained as required in Section VI. 

    2. Optional Use

    Use of HPD's is encouraged in noisy work environments that have been determined not to expose employees to noise at or above the action level. The Department of Environmental Health and Safety is available to provide worker training on the proper selection, use and care of HPD's for University Departments that decide to issue HPD's to its employees.

     

  9. Training and Education Requirements
     

    All employees who are exposed to workplace noise at or above the action level must attend annual hearing conservation training sessions offered by Environmental Health & Safety. These sessions will provide training and education in the following areas: 

    1. Effects of noise on hearing 

    2. Hearing protective devices (HPD's) 

    a) Purpose of HPD's 

    b) Types of HPD's and their attenuations 

    c) Advantages/Disadvantages of HPD's 

    d) Instruction on selection, use and care of HPD's 

    e) Initial fitting of HPD's 

    3. Purpose of audiometric testing and an explanation of test procedures.

  10. Audiometric Testing
     

    Employees who are exposed to workplace noise at or above the action level are required to undergo audiometric testing. First, a baseline audiogram must be established against which subsequent annual audiograms may be compared. 

    Step 1: Obtain a Baseline Audiogram. Prior to annual testing, a baseline audiogram must be established. When establishing a baseline, the employee should not be exposed to workplace noise or high levels of non-occupational noise for at least 14 hours. A baseline audiogram within the first 6 months of employment is required for new employees assigned to an area in which noise exposure is expected to exceed the action level

    Step 2: Annual Audiograms. The purpose of annual testing is to detect threshold shifts so that follow-up action may be taken to prevent further hearing loss. Annual audiograms should be taken during the normal work shift in order to detect temporary threshold shifts resulting from workplace noise exposure that may lead to permanent hearing loss. If audiometric testing reveals that an employee has experienced a standard threshold shift, the use, fit and attenuation of the hearing protective device should be evaluated to ensure adequate protection. In addition, follow-up action, as shown below, must be taken. 

    Step 3: Follow-up action, if required, includes:

    1. Determining the cause of the standard threshold shift (see Appendix A).

    2. Referral for a clinical audiological evaluation or otological exam when problems of a medical nature are suspected.

    3. Retesting the employee's hearing level thresholds within 30 days to determine whether the standard shift is a temporary or permanent threshold shift.
       

    Feedback: All monitored employees must be informed of their audiometric test results and be provided with an explanation of these results. Those employees who exhibit a standard threshold shift must be informed in writing within 21 days of the audiometric test. Follow-up recommendations may be included in the written notification form.

  11. Record Keeping
     

    An accurate record for each exposed employee, including audiometric test results must be established and maintained. Access to all regulations and personal monitoring records described below must be granted to each employee monitored. The record must include the following information: 

    A. Noise Exposure Measurements

    Records of all sound surveys of the work environment must be retained for a minimum of two years. 

    B. Audiometric tests

    Audiometric tests of every employee included in the Hearing Conservation Program must be retained for the duration of the employee's employment and must include the following information: 

    1. Employee's name

    2. Employee's job classification

    3. Examiner's name

    4. Test date and time

    5. Test location site

    6. Date of last equipment calibration

    7. Audiograms / Threshold values obtained

    8. Technician's comments

    9. Professional Recommendations

    10. Background measurements of sound pressure levels in the audiometric test room. 


    C. Additional Records

    1. Hearing protective device fitting dates

    2. Attendance at annual training sessions




  12. Responsibilities

  13. A. Supervisors will:

    1. Sound Surveys

    a) Request sound surveys for potentially hazardous noise environments (see Section II-Definitions). 

    b) Request additional sound surveys whenever a change in the workplace noise level may occur (due to new equipment, increased production, etc.) 

    c) Permit affected employees to observe the sound level monitoring, if they so choose. 

    2. Noise Policy Compliance

    a) Identify and schedule all exposed employees for annual hearing conservation training with Environmental Health & Safety. 

    b) Implement engineering and/or administrative controls whenever feasible. 

    c) Send exposed employees for audiometric testing. 

    i. Schedule hearing tests to establish baseline audiograms for newly-exposed employees. Newly-exposed employees must be sent for baseline audiograms within 6 months of initial exposure. Employees must not be exposed to workplace noise for 14 hours prior to the testing. Employees should also be notified to avoid high levels of non-occupational noise 14 hours prior to testing. 

    ii. Schedule hearing tests annually to obtain follow-up audiograms. Testing should be scheduled during normal work shift hours. 

    d) Ensure that effective hearing protective devices are being worn by employees in required areas or while performing duties which require their use. 

    e) Post a copy of Appendix B of this policy in the workplace of the exposed employee(s). 

    3. Employee Notification

    a) Inform employees about the University's Noise Policy and of their responsibilities under the policy. 

    b) Notify employees of the sound survey results and make a copy accessible to them. 

    c) Notify exposed employees of their individual annual hearing test results. In the event the employee has experienced a standard threshold shift, he/she must be notified of this fact in writing within 21 days of the determination. 

    4. Recordkeeping

    a) Maintain a list of high noise level areas and activities. 

    b) Maintain copies of sound survey results 

    c) Keep attendance lists of annual training sessions. 

    d) Maintain copies of annual audiometric test results for the duration of employment of the exposed employees. 

    e) Maintain records of the number of exposed employees. 

    B. Exposed Employees will:

    1. Familiarize themselves with the University's Noise Policy.
    2. Select and wear hearing protective devices in required work environments.
    3. Attend annual training sessions offered by Environmental Health & Safety.
    4. Notify supervisors of any significant change in observed workplace noise levels. 


    C. Environmental Health and Safety will:

    1. Written Program

    Develop, implement and maintain the University's Noise Policy. 


    2. Sound Surveys

    a) Identify problem areas by conducting basic, detailed and engineering sound surveys (see Section IV). 

    b) Recommend steps to be taken when noise levels are at or above the action level.

    3. Employee Training

    Provide information and training on hearing conservation and noise control for exposed employees. 

    4. Recordkeeping

    a) Maintain records of sound surveys conducted in each department. 

    b) Maintain records of employee attendance at training and hearing protective device fitting sessions. 

    D. Audiometric Testing Center will:

    1. Comply with the mandatory appendices C - E of OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.95 standard (see Appendix B of this policy) regarding audiometric measuring instruments, audiometric test rooms, and acoustic calibration of audiometers.

    2. Obtain baseline and annual audiograms for employees.

    3. Compare annual audiograms to the baseline audiogram to determine if a standard threshold shift has occurred.

    4. Explain audiometric test results to individual employees.

    5. Refer employees for a clinical audiological evaluation or otological exam when problems of a medical nature are suspected.

    6. Retain records of test results for individual employees as part of their permanent files. Audiometric test results must include the information listed in Section VIII.B. of this policy.

    7. Forward a copy of the test results to the employer.

     

Appendix A –

Possible Causes of Standard Threshold Shift and Their Solutions

Cause
Solution

Inadequate or improper HPD use

Refit and retrain employee on correct HPD usage and/or re-select HPD with greater attenuation

Presbycusis (aging)

See Appendix F of OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure Standard

Medical Pathology

Referral for audiological/medical examination or to an Otolaryngologist

Malicious intent

Complete audiological examination

 

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Appendix B –

OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (29 CFR 1910.95)

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