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Eight jurisdictions specifically require a hearing conservation program when:
Six jurisdictions do not have a specific requirement for a hearing conservation program (Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Yukon).
However, as per Occupational Health and Safety legislation across Canada, employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment and take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of employees and others in the workplace. This duty is known as due diligence. To exercise due diligence, an employer should work with the health and safety committee (or representative) to create and implement hearing conservation program when needed. Check with your jurisdiction for more guidance.
The employer should conduct a noise assessment at the workplace, according to the CSA Standard Z107.56 Measurement of Noise Exposure, if:
Note the requirement when to conduct a noise assessment (e.g., dBA level) may vary from jurisdiction. Conducting an assessment at an action level of 80 dBA provides more protection.
Please see the OHS Answers document Noise - Measurement of Workplace Noise for more information.
If noise monitoring confirms that workers are exposed to noise levels at or above 85 dBA, a hearing conservation program should be developed and implemented. The program includes a policy and procedure. The CSA Standard Z1007 Hearing Loss Prevention Program Management recommends that a hearing conservation program include the following elements:
Please see the OSH Answers document Guide to Writing an OHS Policy Statement for information.
The employer should make sure that, if reasonably possible, measures are taken to reduce noise levels using the hierarchy of controls in the following order before providing hearing protection devices:
Please see the OSH Answers Noise – Control Measures for more information.
The majority of the jurisdictions require that employers provide hearing protection devices when noise levels are at or above 85 dBA. The value of 85 dBA is also based on good practice guidelines set out by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control. CSA Standards Z94.2 Hearing Protection Devices - Performance, selection, care, and use and Z1007 Hearing Loss Prevention Program Management also recommend that hearing protection devices be used when engineering controls or administrative controls are not practicable or do not reduce noise exposure to acceptable levels (i.e., below 85 dBA).
The employer should make sure that the selection, care, and use of hearing protection devices meet the specifications outlined in the CSA Standard Z94.2.
The employer should make sure that a worker using the hearing protection device is adequately trained and instructed by a competent person in selection, fit, use, care, maintenance, and inspection.
The choice of hearing protectors is a personal one, and depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to acoustics, comfort, and the suitability of the hearing protector for both the worker and the environment. Where protectors must be used, provide a choice of different types when possible. Having choice encourages use, and protection can only be effective if it is properly and consistently used. Anatomy of the ear and ear canal can vary significantly making comfort and individual preferences important.
Please see the OSH Answers on Hearing Protectors for more information.
Audiometry is an important part of the hearing conservation program. It is the only way to determine if a hearing loss is occurring or being prevented. Although existing hearing loss cannot be cured, the data can be used to:
Ten jurisdictions require audiometric tests when a worker's noise exposure is greater than:
One jurisdiction requires annual audiometric testing for those working in an underground mine or when Commission has reason to believe that a worker is or may be affected with an occupational disease (New Brunswick). There is no specific audiometric testing requirement in three jurisdictions (Federal, Nova Scotia, and Ontario).
Generally speaking, audiometric testing is recommended when a worker is exposed to noise levels greater than 85 dBA. Audiometric testing should be conducted according to CSA Standard Z107.6 Audiometric Testing for Use in Hearing Loss Prevention Programs, which outlines specifications for the testing facility, the equipment used, and those in charge of conducting audiometric tests.
The CSA Standard Z1007 Hearing Loss Prevention Program Management recommends that audiometric testing involves:
Please see the OHS Answers document Noise – Audiometric tests for more information.
If it is not practicable to reduce noise levels to or below the noise exposure limits, the employer should post clearly visible warning signs at every approach to an area in the workplace in which the sound level:
Education and training should be provided to workers who are required to wear hearing protection devices. The education and training should cover all elements listed in CSA Z94.2 (i.e., selection, fit, use, care, maintenance, and inspection). The education and training should be repeated, as recommended in the Standards, at regular intervals and at least once every two years.
Education and training may include information about:
Keeping records of your assessment and any control measures implemented is very important. You may be required to store the records and documents for a specific number of years. Check for local requirements in your jurisdiction.
The level of documentation or record keeping will depend on:
Your records should show that you:
The results of the audiometric test itself may be considered a medical record, and as such, can only be released with the worker's written consent. The audiometric technician or organization may need to keep the results of the hearing test for a period of time as specified in by the jurisdiction.
A program review or evaluation is done by auditing each of the program's steps and seeing how well they are being executed. For example, ask the following questions:
The program should be reviewed periodically to see if there is a need for changes.