Hearing Conservation Programs: An Overview

Date: September 4, 2014 | Category: Hearing Protection

aircraft-carrierEmployees who are systematically exposed to unhealthy noise levels are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to participate in a hearing conservation program. Many people may not be aware of what a hearing conservation program is, why it is important, or how one is set up. Those who work in environments in which potentially loud noise levels may cause physical or mental harm should be seriously invested in learning more about the hearing conservation program. Even more so, managers and employers should be among the most concerned; since an employer’s highest priority ought to be keeping his or her employees safe, the importance of these programs to employers and managers of workplaces around the globe cannot be overly emphasized.

When Are Hearing Conservation Programs Necessary?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in the year 1970 with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA’s goal is to protect both employers and employees alike from injuries that are frequently acquired within the workplace, including illness, physical injury, mental injury, and death. A written program concerning the topic of hearing conservation is necessary according to standards issued by OSHA. According to OSHA, these written programs are necessary if employees are exposed to noise exposure levels that “equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85dB measured on the A scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent.”

Why is Hearing Conservation Important?

Hearing conservation can be summed up as the appropriate training and education of individuals who are consistently working in environments that may be overly noisy to the point of employee injury. Hearing conservation programs are vitally important because they are the key to preventing noise-induced injuries and total loss of hearing. OSHA requires the kind of aforementioned training to be performed once a year because any amount of noise exposure, even “modest” noise levels, may cause a great deal of damage to those who spend even minimal time in excessively loud environments.

What Takes Place During a Hearing Conservation Program?

The standards issued by OSHA for a good program are varied, but they can be summed up in several points. The requirements recorded in the bulleted list below will give individuals a general idea of the contents of an authorized hearing conservation program:

  • Monitoring. If an employee is exposed to a time-weighted average of about 85dB for the duration of eight or more hours, OSHA requires the use of careful monitoring.
  • Hearing protectors. Employers are responsible for providing employees and other individuals who are continually exposed to hazardous noise levels with adequate hearing protection. This hearing protection should not cost the employees any money and should be quality equipment, such as the equipment produced by Sensear.
  • Engineering Controls. If there is any way for an employer to reduce the extreme noise levels in a facility, he or she is expected to do so with the use of administrative controls or other means of engineered manipulation. Again, if the controls are futile, employers are expected to provide employees with the appropriate equipment for total hearing protection.
  • Training. Training must be administered to employees in an effort to educate them about the purpose, benefits, and possible disadvantages of the many kinds of hearing protection devices out there.
  • Testing. An audiometric testing program (a fancy phrase which means “hearing testing”) must be issued to employees who are constantly exposed to unhealthy levels of noise in an effort to monitor their health so as to prevent developing injury.
  • Recordkeeping. The records gleaned from the above points must be kept in an organized fashion for future reference.

Employers and business managers should pay careful attention to the regulations listed by OSHA in an attempt to adhere to the safety regulations listed. Employers who are serious about providing adequate hearing protection for employees who are exposed to unhealthy noise levels must take hearing conservation programs into account; conducting these programs is an essential aspect of running a safe, successful business.