Prevention is always the best way to deal with injury on the job. That’s what hearing conservation programs are all about. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has made them the cornerstone of their hearing guidelines.
What Is a Hearing Conservation Program?
A hearing conservation program is mandated by OSHA if noise exposure at your business is 85 decibels for an eight hour exposure for most business, 90 decibels for eight hours in the construction industry.
This type of program has for its goals:
- prevention of occupational hearing loss.
- protecting a worker’s remaining hearing.
- equipping workers with the knowledge to avoid hearing loss.
- educating workers with information about hearing protection devices, what they are and how to use them.
Your job as a small business owner is to:
- measure noise levels.
- provide free annual hearing exams.
- make the proper hearing protection devices easily available.
- train workers how to recognize dangers and how to use protective gear.
- conduct evaluations of the protective gear.
This not only protects your workers and keeps OSHA happy, it also produces positive results for your company. Workplaces with a program in place have higher productivity and lower absenteeism.
What Reduces Noise Levels?
You can implement certain controls that will help keep noise levels at a safe level at your worksite. Even reducing sound by a few decibels can reduce the risk of hearing loss significantly. It also limits the annoyance that loud noise causes and improves communication among employees. Both of these results make it easier for people to do their job efficiently.
Engineering controls are the type that modify or replace equipment or make any type of physical change on the job floor that reduces the level of sound that makes it to your workers’ ears. Several examples, both low in cost and effective, include:
- low-noise tools and machines.
- lubricating machinery regularly.
- putting a barrier between the source of the sound and the worker.
- isolating the source of the sound.
Other controls are labeled administrative. These include:
- operating loud machinery on shifts with the fewest workers.
- limiting the amount of time a worker can spend close to a loud source of noise.
- providing quiet spots for recuperation during a shift.
- keeping workers a specified distance from loud equipment.
- using hearing protective devices like earmuffs and earplugs.
By lowering noise levels, you stay on the right side of OSHA and prevent injuries to your workers. You also need to protect yourself from liability issues by carrying workers’ compensation insurance.