An effective hearing conservation program can prevent hearing loss, improve employee morale and a general feeling of well-being, increase quality of production, and reduce the incidence of stress-related disease. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend an employer should administer a continuing, effective hearing conservation program whenever employee noise exposures are at or above an eight hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 dBA. This is referred to as the action level.

An effective hearing conservation program consists of four parts: Part One – Monitoring Program; Part Two – Hearing Protection Devices; Part Three – Employee Training and Education; and Part Four – Recordkeeping. This Handout provides information on employee training and education.

Workers should be trained to recognize noise hazards and which administrative and engineering controls can be used to eliminate or control such hazards. Some administrative controls include: (1) Operating noisy machinery on shifts when fewer employees are present; (2) Rotating employees out of noisy area for part of a shift; and (3) Changing equipment or the physical structure to reduce noise.

Employees should also be trained to recognize engineering changes that could reduce noise. These include: (1) Enclosing noisy processes in sound-absorbing rooms; (2) Using carpet, resilient flooring, and sound-dampening walls; (3) Using rubber cushions or cardboard at the end of line chutes; (4) Replacing noisy metal parts with quieter plastic or rubber components; (5) Eliminating vibration noise by placing heavy equipment on resilient pads; and (6) Ensuring equipment is properly maintained.

Other considerations include:

The employer should institute a training program for all employees with noise exposures at or above the action level and ensure employee participation.

Training should be repeated annually for each employee in the hearing conservation program.

Information should be updated to be consistent with changes in protective equipment and work processes.

The employer should ensure that each employee is informed of the purpose of hearing protectors.

The employer should provide information on the advantages, disadvantages, and attenuation of various types of hearing protectors.

The employer should provide training to employees on how to select, fit, use, and care for hearing protection devices.

The employer should ensure that each employee is informed of the purpose of audiometric testing and an explanation of test procedures.

The employer should make copies of the noise standard available to affected employees or their representatives and post a copy in the workplace.

The employer should provide affected employees with any informational materials pertaining to the standard that are supplied to the employer by OSHA.

The employer should provide, upon request, all materials relating to the employer’s training and education program to OSHA.

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