5 ways to protect employees’ ears

Noise is a necessary byproduct of many industrial processes. But employees who are exposed to a lot of it could experience temporary or permanent hearing loss.

If your workplace is particularly loud, OSHA may require that you have a written hearing conservation program in place to protect your workers.

Your program should include the following:

Sound survey 
Employers are required to monitor workplace noise to determine if employees are regularly exposed to 85 decibels or more — even if the noise is only intermittent or occasional. Monitoring should be repeated whenever there is a change in operations or equipment that could impact noise levels.

Audiometric testing 
If employees are exposed to noise levels that average 85 decibels or more, OSHA requires employers to maintain an audiometric testing program. Essentially, this means employees must receive a free baseline hearing test and annual tests thereafter.

If a hearing test determines that the employee has experienced a measurable hearing loss, the employee must be notified, fitted with adequate hearing protection, and required to wear it.

Hearing protectors
Likewise, at the same high noise level, the employer must provide several types of hearing protection at no cost to the employees. (Employees exposed to noise levels of 90 decibels or more are required to wear hearing protection.)

Furthermore, employees must receive annual training on the effects of noise, the pros and cons of various hearing protectors, care and fit for their hearing protectors, and the purpose of audiometric hearing tests.

Noise exposure measurements must be kept for two years, but records of an employee’s audiometric test results must be kept for the duration of the employee’s employment.