OSHA Hearing Conservation Requirements

This article briefly explains OSHA’s noise exposure standard and includes information on the various aspects of a hearing conservation program including: noise exposure assessments, medical surveillance, hearing tests and training.

In the workplace, employees are exposed to a wide variety of noise levels. Noise exposure above a certain level damages hearing. Noise induced hearing loss can have profound effects on an individual, limiting their ability to hear certain frequencies, understand speech and can seriously impair their ability to communicate.

OSHA’s occupational noise exposure regulations, 29 CFR 1910.95 for general industry and 29 CFR 1926.52 and 1926.101 for construction, require employers to protect their employees against the effects of noise exposure. OSHA uses two different noise exposure level criteria. The first is the action level (AL) at 85-dBA on an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) or equivalently a 50 percent dose. The second is the permissible exposure limit (PEL) which can be found on Table G-16 (replicated below).

Table G-16: Permissible Noise Exposure Limit
Duration per Day, HoursSound Level, dBA, Slow Response
890
692
495
397
2100
1 ½102
1105
½110
¼ or less115

The AL and the PEL are used to determine compliance to various mandatory elements in the occupational noise exposure regulations. These requirements are listed below to help you get compliant.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. Answers@Anfeald.com or 970-372-1131.

Step 1: Identify Noise Sources

Identify and measure the noise sources in your workplace with a sound level meter. If the sound levels exceed the AL in any location, take additional measurements at different times of the day and on different shifts to confirm.  Take careful notes – It is best to use a facility map and write the results directly on the map.  Remember to record the date and time of your measurements.

Use a type 2 sound level meter set to “slow response”, “A-weighted scale”.  If you use a smartphone application to do this, keep in mind that this is not a type 2 sound level meter and it does not meet the minimum OSHA requirements.  However, it will give you an idea of the noise levels.

Step 2: Complete Personal Noise Dosimetery

Personal noise dosimeters collects individual worker noise dose during the length of the work-shift or sampling period.  When you identify a noisy area with the use of a sound level meter, identify the people that work near this equipment or that operate the equipment.  Identify a representative sample of each affected job title and collect personal noise samples.  The results are given as a TWA or a dose percentage of the PEL.

If the sound levels exceed those shown in Table G-16, provide appropriate noise controls and hearing protection.   Additionally, if the results indicate that the employee noise exposures are equal to or exceed the AL, a hearing conservation program and employee training are required.

For OSHA compliance, only ANSI approved Type 1 or Type 2 sound level meters and may be used. Other sound level meters such as phone apps may be used as a pre-screening tool, however you may not use them to document OSHA compliance.

Step 3: Implement Noise Exposure Controls

The next step involves noise exposure controls. OSHA requires the use of feasible administrative and/or engineering controls if the sound level exceeds those listed in Table G-16. Noise controls should (1) minimize or eliminate sources of noise, (2) prevent the propagation, amplification and reverberation of noise and (3) protect employees against excess noise.

Engineering and administrative controls are technologically feasible for most noise sources, but their economic feasibility should be determined on a case by case basis. In some instances, the application of a relatively simple noise-control solution can reduce the hazard to the extent that a hearing conservation program is no longer necessary.  For example, if the noise involves the release of compressed air, a simple solution is to equip all compressed air sources with silencers; these devices are readily available and control noise much like a car muffler.

Step 4: Develop a Written Hearing Conservation Program

If noise exposure levels are equal to or above the AL then the implementation of a written hearing conservation program is required. The written program should address the following elements: (1) occupational noise exposure, (2) monitoring, (3) audiometric testing requirements, (4) hearing protectors, (5) training, (6) recordkeeping.

Anfeald can help you develop a hearing conservation written program. For more information please call us at 970.372.1131 or e-mail us at answers@anfeald.com

Step 5: Complete Baseline and Annual Hearing Tests

The OSHA noise exposure regulation requires employers to obtain a baseline hearing test within six months of an employee’s first exposure to sound levels at or above the AL. From here on, all future audiograms will be compared to the employees initial baseline.

OSHA requires you to obtain a new audiogram every year for as long as the employee is exposed to noise levels at or above the AL. Compare the annual audiogram to the baseline audiogram to determine if the audiogram is valid and if there has been a standard threshold shift (STS).

Anfeald provides initial and annual hearing tests. For more information reference our hearing tests page.

Step 6: Evaluate Annual Hearing Tests

An STS is an OSHA recordable injury. If an annual audiogram shows an STS, the employer has 30 days to retest the employee. Furthermore, the employer must notify the employee in writing within 21 days of the test. If after the retest the STS is no longer present, notify the employee of their change in status. However, if the STS is persistent, the retest then becomes the new baseline and the STS must be recorded within seven days of the retest in the OSHA log 300.

Step 7: Provide Hearing Protectors

Provide hearing protectors to all employees exposed to sound levels at or above the AL. Employees who fall into any one of the following three categories are required to wear hearing protectors: (1) anyone exposed to sound levels at or above the PEL, (2) employees exposed to sound levels at or above the AL who have not received a baseline audiogram, and (3) employees exposed to sound levels at or above the AL who have experienced an STS.

Hearing protectors must sufficiently attenuate the specific noise environment in which the protector will be used. At a minimum hearing protectors must attenuate to 90 dB and if the employee has had a previous STS they must attenuate to 85 dB.

Step 8: Train Employees

Employees enrolled in the hearing conservation program are required to receive annual training on: (1) the effects of noise on hearing, (2) hearing protector purpose including advantages, disadvantages, attenuation and proper use, (3) and audiometric testing purpose and test procedures. Visit our course catalog page to search for and learn more about hearing conservation training.

Step 9: Maintain Records

The OSHA noise exposure regulation requires that accurate records of noise exposure measurements and audiometric tests be kept. The former for a period of two years and the latter for the duration of the affected employee’s employment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hearing Tests

How many hearing tests can Anfeald complete in an hour?

Test times vary – in general we can perform up to five hearing tests at one time. Each hearing test session takes between 7 and 15 minutes.

What is the minimum number of hearing tests for client site visits?

We require a minimum of three hearing tests per hour for client site visits

Is there a minimum number of hearing tests for in office visits?

No there is no minimum for in office visits, only for client site visits.

Did I pass my hearing test?

There is no such thing as passing or failing a hearing test. A hearing test is just a measure of how sensitive a person’s sense of hearing is. Normal hearing ranges between -10 dB to 25 dB.; mild hearing loss is considered to be between 25 dB and 40 dB; moderate between 40 dB and 55 dB; moderate-severe between 55 dB and 70 dB; severe between 70 dB and 90dB; and profound between 90 dB and 110 dB.

I misplaced the hearing test records, what should I do?

Contact Anfeald at Answers@Anfeald.com or 970-372-1131, we keep records of all of our medical surveillance services we provide and we will get them to you as soon as we can.

Do I need a quiet room if Anfeald is coming to my facility?

Yes, if Anfeald is visiting your site to provide hearing tests, you need to provide a quiet room. If the space provided is not sufficiently quiet, we will not be able to perform the hearing tests.

The results for one of my employees indicate a standard threshold shift, what do I need to do?

There are a few things you need to do:

  1. Inform your employee in writing within 21 days of the test.
  2. Schedule a retest within 30 days of the test.
    • If the results from the retest indicate a permanent STS, you must record it within 7 days on the OSHA 300 Log.
    • If the results no longer show the STS, you must update your employee.

Hearing Conservation Services by Anfeald

Anfeald helps clients with all of the following services:

Check out our hearing conservation FAQ for more information.  Reach out to us when you are ready to talk.  We can help!

Reach Out To Us Today!

Call 970.372.1131 or send us a note

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