Wellness Management: 4 Steps To Avoid Work Related Hearing Loss (NIHL) Claims

MANAGE THE NOISE

MANAGE YOUR RISK

ABL’s Occupational Wellness Manager and staff are committed to ENSURING our workers can hear what you need to say in order to stay safe. Hearing loss claims can result in non-economic loss compensation awards. GOOD NEWS!!! Noise control on the worksit,e coupled with the right hearing protectors, will help safeguard your workers’ hearing. Noise can also interfere with communications, concentration, and ultimately affect work site safety, resulting in accidents.




It is time to think about the effect of noise and the risk of related potential claims at your worksite when you notice or have the following reported:
 

  • Workers hear ringing or humming in the ears after
    work: may be exposed to too much noise
  • Workers have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm’s length away: exposure limit to noise may be exceeded (too loud)
  • Workers experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work: exposure at this level may lead to permanent hearing loss



MANAGEMENT STRATEGY # 1: ASSESS THE NOISE [risk of noise-induced hearing loss]

Step 1: Conduct an initial noise assessment to know what noise levels are on the worksite

Hint:
 Download a free “SPLnFFT Noise Meter” to your phone or tablet with the following applications: frequency analyzer, frequency meter, test signal generator, dosimeter (cost is usually under $10)

Step 2: Establish Noise Exposure Level over an 8 hour period

Hint: Once you have objective information including the (in dB(A)) then you input this information into the free Noise Exposure Calculator

  • FREE Download: Interactive Noise Exposure Calculator: This table calculates the 8 hour equivalent sound exposure level as per the equation in O.Reg 381/15.  To use this table, enter the measured noise level (in dB(A)) and the amount of time and press ENTER.

STEP 3: ASSESS THE RISK OF NOISE INDUCED HEARING LOSS POTENTIAL OVER AN 8 HOUR PERIOD

<80 dB(A)minimal risk of noise induced hearing loss
85+ dB(A)significant risk of noise induced hearing loss – REQUIRES CSA APPROVED DEVICES http://www.ccohs.ca/products/csa/27015152014

Hint: Assess different areas of the plant as different times as this may vary during the day. Record this information annually as Worker’s Compensation Board will be requesting this information in the event of a claim.



MANAGEMENT STRATEGY # 2: CONTROL THE NOISE 


There are three different types of control measures used to decrease hazards:

 1) Engineering Controls:

Engineering controls either isolate or eliminate the noise hazard. Engineering controls include equipment replacement, equipment isolation, and adding sound absorbing materials.


Hints:

  • Establish mandate that only allows machinery to be purchased less than 75 decibel
  •  Quiet materials for conveyors, bins (noiseless steel, plastic coatings, etc.)
  •  Balance rotating parts, avoid harmonic frequencies, etc.
  •  Avoid impacts in process flow (slide instead of drop)
  •  Replace noisy equipment or machinery with quieter equipment or machiner
  •  Use sound absorption/insulation materials: Enclosures, barriers, curtains; Sound absorbing acoustic wall/ceiling treatment


2) Administrative Controls:

Administrative controls involve changes to policies and procedures to protect workers. Administrative controls include worker rotation, changing mainte­nance schedules, and defining permissible noise limits for new equipment. Should be reviewed annually.

 Hints:

  • Rotate employees to reduce the time each person is exposed to the noise
  •  Confirm workers are aware of loca­tions and duties with potentially hazardous noise exposure
  •  Unprotected workers are kept out of areas des­ignated as hazardous noise areas
  •  Areas must be properly monitored to ensure safety precautions are followed
  •  Managers and supervisors need to stress the impor­tance of hearing conservation with employees
  •  Conduct training initially and annually thereafter


3) Personal Protective Equipment:

PPE’s are considered a control to limit the exposure of noise. PPE includes earplugs, helmets, with or without electronic communication capabilities, and earmuffs. The CSA Class can be found in CSA Z94.2-14 Hearing Protection Devices Standards, Table 3: Assignment of class based on the octave band attenuation values measured according to ANSI S3.19.

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) – the decibel reduction a wearer can expect from a properly fitted hearing protective device

  • Earplugs ‐ have the highest NRR (up to 33 dB) and are inexpensive. Plugs must be inserted properly
  •  Earmuffs – form air‐tight seal over the ear, NRR up to 30 dB, less effective when using eyewear
  •  Canal Caps – lower NRR, use pressure from a headband to hold the earplugs in place

Hint: Earmuffs are not recommended if glasses are worn, as they prevent an effective seal.




MANAGEMENT STRATEGY # 3: WORK RELATED NOISE INDUCED HEARING LOSS
(NIHL) CLAIMS


In Ontario, WSIB will accept entitlement for NIHL if:

The worker has continuous exposure to 90 decibels (dB) of noise on the “A” scale for 8 hours per day for a minimum of 5 years, or the equivalent AND if the worker has established a pattern of hearing loss consistent with noise-induced hearing loss.

Here are 3 things an employer or workplace needs to know:


1) Pre-employment Screening:

Where a worker will be constantly exposed to noise, as a pre-employment criteria of employment, new hires will need to complete an audiogram (hearing test) to establish a base line for potential hearing loss claims as a current employee and for the future.

HINT: 

As hearing loss usually occurs over time, an employer can ask [and document] during the interview whether or not hearing protection was used for previous jobs when it is probable that the worksite may expose workers to high noise levels – this documentation will help when establishing a case for SIEF [Secondary Injury and Enhancement Fund] potentially reducing claim costs by 50 PERCENT.
 

2) Know your worksite noise levels and control measures:

  • Have the facts ready and annual stats regarding your noise assessments and control strategies [as noted above]
  •  Employers should complete and maintain the following records annuarovide all this information when trying to
  • establish an objection to a claim outlining the policies and procedures the worksite conducted for hearing conservation
  •  types of operations that require hearing protec­tion;
  •  types of approved hearing protection for each worker; and
  •  locations where hearing protection is to be worn



3) Know what Worker’s Compensation Board will review as part of the claim:

Employers should be prepared to provide the following job details to establish safe practices were in place to contain the noise levels thereby preventing hearing loss:

  • The job title, equipment used, hours of noise exposure per day, ear protection worn and plant area where the worker performed duties
  •  Whether the worker still works in hazardous noise conditions
  •  Provide whether the area’s decibel (db) levels have been posted
  •  The worker will be asked to document their work history

We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about this topic to contact ABL Employment’s Occupational Wellness Manager, and to review our other Occupational Wellness Articles on this site.

Written by: Carla Villalta
Occupational Wellness Manager
ABL Employment


The information provided by ABL Employment is intended to promote healthy habits. It is not intended as a substitute for medical and/or legal advice or professional care. Before making significant changes to diet or exercise, consult your health care provider.

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