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How will I know if employees suffer hearing loss because of work?

by , 03 May 2013
I know I've said this a thousand times already but I'm going to say it again... As a health and safety officer you have an obligation to protect your employees.

If you have noise zones on your work site and employees are exposed to noise on a daily basis, you must conduct hearing tests.

If you don't comply with the Noise Induced Hearing Loss Regulations (NIHL) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), you'll be liable for a fine or imprisonment. Read on to find out how never to be caught unawares.

How can I tell if my employees suffer from work related hearing loss?

When a person starts work at your company you need to tell them if they'll be working in a noise zone. You need to explain the precautions they must take when in the noise zone. For example, they must use PPE when entering.

But that's not all. You need to conduct hearing tests to determine if your employee's hearing is deteriorating because of working in the noise zone - and not because they're plugged into an iPod.

The hearing test you can conduct is called the audiometry test. This test measures the percentage of hearing loss (if any) when your employee works in a noise zone, in eight hour shifts for 40 hours per week.

But you can't conduct them yourself. You need to hire a specialist.

Why new employees need a sound check within 30 days

The audiologist will use the audiogram to measure hearing loss for the test. The audiogram is a standard way of representing a person's hearing loss.

The baseline (or first) audiogram is made up of two hearing tests and you must perform the tests in one day. Conduct the tests on all employees exposed to noise zones.

New employees must also be tested but before they are employed or within 30 days of starting their employment with you.

You must make sure copies of the audiograms are entered into the employees' records. This'll serve as your proof when the DoL inspectors arrive at your doorstop!

The baseline audiogram is only the beginning. Your employees hearing needs to be monitored overtime. To do this you must have periodic audiograms.

It doesn't stop with your baseline…

Do you employ five or more employees?
If your company employs five or more employees, it must meet the minimum first aid requirements.


Periodic audiograms

You must conduct periodic (six-monthly to once a year) audiograms for the rest of the time your employee's with you.

You'll need to do an audiogram every six months until you've established there's no percentage loss of hearing (PLH) higher than 10% (this is known as the referral threshold shift). After this, you can extend the period to a maximum of one year.

If you find that any employees' percentage hearing loss has deteriorated by 10% or more since the baseline audiogram was recorded then you need to follow the steps under NIHL Regulation 8 (d) of the OHSA.

To get the full details about baseline and periodic audiograms subscribe to the Health and Safety Advisor.

When your employee leaves your company, you'll also need to conduct another audiogram. This is called the Exit Audiogram.

If you're a Safety Officer then you need these tips, tools, templates and step-by-step instructions to make your job easier!


Exit Audiograms

You also need to give employees an exit audiogram when they leave the company, along with a copy of the audiogram results to take with him to his next place of employment.

Audiometric tests are important because it'll help you monitor and determine if your employee's hearing is deteriorating. It might seem like a very complicated process but it doesn't have to be.

Read chapter N02 on Noise Regulations in Occupational Health in your Health and Safety Advisor. We'll turn this complicated process of audiometric tests into a piece of cake!

Here's what you can find:

  • 4 Steps to take for an employee who's lost more than 10% of his hearing since working for you and so much more
  • Step-by-step: Operating procedure for audiogram results
  • What do you do if your employee has suffered hearing loss at a previous company?

And so much more!

Remember you're responsible for the health and safety of your employees. You also have an obligation under the NIHL Regulations to protect your employees or you'll face the penalties! So make sure you have the proper processes and procedures in place for employees exposed to high noise levels.

Stay safe.

Kerusha Narothan
Product Manager: Health and Safety Training Manual

P.S.  Do your employees know about the different fire equipment?
If a fire breaks out in your building, would your employees know what to do or how to use the fire extinguisher?
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