Company Care works with employers and employees through educational programs and various health screenings to promote a healthier, safer workplace in Greater Pasadena, TX. Safety services offered through Company Care are designed to assist companies in creating a work environment that will minimize the probability of injury or accidents. These services and programs include the following:
Noise or unwanted sound is the #1 single cause of hearing loss, most of which is in the form of industrial noise. Fifty percent of industries expose 35 million people to hazardous noise. Physiological effects of exposure to hazardous noise levels include increased heart rate, increased thyroid activity and general increases in somatic complaints.
From both ethical and financial perspectives, it behooves the employer to put a Hearing Conservation Program into effect. The Federal Employee Compensation Act allows for reimbursement to employees who suffer noise-induced hearing loss as a result of over-exposure to hazardous noise.
Company Care's Hearing Conservation Program
Company Care's Hearing Conservation Program provides client companies with certified audiology screening, annual monitoring, education of the employees and policy and procedures for hearing protective devices and documentation.
Audiological tests are conducted in a room where background sound levels do not exceed specific levels (which are contained in the summary of the OSHA standard). Group rates are available by contacting the OHS Program.
According to the standard, the OHS Department has two people who are equipped to administer the tests.
According to OSHA 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. Employers must repeat monitoring whenever changes in production, process, or controls increase noise exposure. These changes may mean that more employees need to be included in the program or that their hearing protectors may no longer provide adequate protection. Employees are entitled to observe monitoring procedures and must receive notification of the results of exposure monitoring. The method used to notify employees is left to the employer's discretion.
Calibration of Noise Monitoring Instruments
Employers must carefully check or calibrate instruments used for monitoring employee exposures to ensure that the measurements are accurate. Calibration procedures are unique to specific instruments. Employers should follow the manufacturer's instructions to determine when and how extensively to calibrate the instrument.
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 follow up 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. The audiometric testing program follow up should indicate whether the employer's hearing conservation program is preventing hearing loss.
A licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician must be responsible for the program. Both professionals and trained technicians may conduct audiometric testing. The professional in charge of the program does not have to be present when a qualified technician conducts tests. The professional's responsibilities include overseeing the program and the work of the technicians, reviewing problem audiograms, and determining whether referral is necessary. The employee needs a referral for further testing when test results are questionable or when related medical problems are suspected. If additional testing is necessary or if the employer suspects a medical pathology of the ear that is caused or aggravated by wearing hearing protectors, the employer must refer the employee for a clinical audiological evaluation or otological exam, as appropriate. There are two types of audiograms required in the hearing conservation program: baseline and annual audiograms.
The baseline audiogram is the reference audiogram against which future audiograms are compared. Employers must provide baseline audiograms within 6 months of an employee's first exposure at or above an 8-hour TWA of 85 dB. An exception is allowed when the employer uses a mobile test van for audiograms. In these instances, baseline audiograms must be completed within 1 year after an employee's first exposure to workplace noise at or above a TWA of 85 dB. Employees, however, must be fitted with, issued, and required to wear hearing protectors whenever they are exposed to noise levels above a TWA of 85 dB for any period exceeding 6 months after their first exposure until the baseline audiogram is conducted. Baseline audiograms taken before the hearing conservation program took effect in 1983 are acceptable if the professional supervisor determines that the audiogram is valid. Employees should not be exposed to workplace noise for 14 hours before the baseline test or wear hearing protectors during this time period.
Employers must provide annual audiograms within 1 year of the baseline. It is important to test worker's hearing annually to identify deterioration in their hearing ability as early as possible. This enables employers to initiate protective follow up measures before hearing loss progresses. Employers must compare annual audiograms to baseline audiograms to determine whether the audiogram is valid and whether the employee has lost hearing ability or experienced a standard threshold shift (STS). An STS is an average shift in either ear of 10 dB or more at 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 hertz.
Employer Requirements After Audiograms
The employer must fit or refit any employee showing an STS with adequate hearing protectors, show the employee how to use them, and require the employee to wear them. Employers must notify employees within 21 days after the determination that their audiometric test results show an STS. Some employees with an STS may need further testing if the professional determines that their test results are questionable or if they have an ear problem thought to be caused or aggravated by wearing hearing protectors. If the suspected medical problem is not thought to be related to wearing hearing protection, the employer must advise the employee to see a physician. If subsequent audiometric tests show that the STS identified on a previous audiogram is not persistent, employees whose exposure to noise is less than a TWA of 90 dB may stop wearing hearing protectors.
The employer may substitute an annual audiogram for the original baseline audiogram if the professional supervising the audiometric program determines that the employee's STS is persistent. The employer must retain the original baseline audiogram, however, for the length of the employee's employment. This substitution will ensure that the same shift is not repeatedly identified. The professional also may decide to revise the baseline audiogram if the employee's hearing improves. This will ensure that the baseline reflects actual hearing thresholds to the extent possible. Employers must conduct audiometric tests in a room meeting specific background levels and with calibrated audiometers that meet American National Standard Institute (ANSI) specifications of SC-1969.
OSHA Materials & Tools
OSHA has a variety of materials and tools on its website at www.osha.gov. These include eTools such as Expert Advisors and Electronic Compliance Assistance Tools, information on specific health and safety topics, regulations, directives, publications, videos, and other information for employers and employees.
OSHA also has an extensive publications program. For a list of free or sales items, visit OSHA's website or contact the OSHA Publications Office, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, N-3101, Washington, DC 20210. Telephone (202) 693-1888.