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Noise is a common hazard that can be found in many different work environments. Noise becomes an occupational health hazard when the sound is loud enough and the worker is exposed long and often enough to create a risk for developing hearing loss or tinnitus. Noise can also have other effects on worker health such as increasing stress and fatigue, and decreasing the ability to communicate effectively.
Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Difficulty understanding someone at one metre (three feet) away;
- Difficulty communicating when there are background sounds or many voices; and
- Increasing the volume of devices, like a television or radio, to a level that is too loud for others.
In addition to hearing loss, noise can also cause an increase in stress and make it difficult for workers to speak to each other. Not being able to communicate clearly or easily can increase the risk of injuries on the job.
The hierarchy of controls establishes that it is best to eliminate or substitute a hazard, where possible, and otherwise reduce the risk using engineering controls or administrative controls. Personal protective equipment (PPE), including hearing protection, is considered to be the least effective method to control a hazard. PPE should only be used when other controls are not practical or adequate, as a short-term measure before controls are implemented, or during emergency situations.
Hierarchy of Controls
- Make sure when a worker is required to work in an area in which noise levels exceed the ACGIH Noise Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) to take appropriate action to reduce noise to acceptable levels or isolate the worker from the noise. Where this is not practical, make sure workers wear appropriate hearing protection for the level of noise.
- Make sure hearing protection meets the requirements of CSA Z94.2 "Hearing protection devices - performances, selection, care and use”.
- Make sure that the workplace and activities are assessed for noise hazards.
- Make sure, where workers are exposed to noise above the ACGIH Noise Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), to establish and maintain a written hearing conservation program that includes:
- A noise assessment to identify high noise areas and tasks. This assessment must be performed by a qualified person, in accordance with the process established in CSA Z107.56 "Procedures for the measurement of occupational noise exposure";
- Training and education for all workers in the health hazards of noise and the fitting, maintenance, care and use of hearing protection; and
- Hearing tests for every worker exposed, conducted:
- Within three months of starting employment
- On an annual basis; and
- Where recommended by an audiologist or occupational physician.
- Make sure that records associated with the hearing conservation program are kept by the employer or designate for as long as the worker remains employed. Records must include the results of hearing tests and proof of training for each worker, for the duration of their employment. Upon termination of employment, provide the worker with a record of noise exposure during the term of employment, if requested.
- Post signs stating the hazard and the required hearing protection on the entrance to an area that requires hearing protection.
- Take reasonable care to protect his or her health and safety and that of workers and persons at or near the workplace.
- Properly wear or use personal protective equipment (PPE), safeguards and safety devices provided for their protection in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and training provided by the employer.
- Immediately report concerns and hazards to the supervisor or employer.
- Follow safe work practices and procedures.
- Personal protective equipment
- Hazard recognition, evalutation and control
- Forestry and tree felling
- Marine operations and diving
TinnitusTinnitus is often described as a ringing in one or both ears, even though no sound is present. Tinnitus can also cause other types of phantom noises, including buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, humming and rhythmic pulsing. Tinnitus may occur on its own or it may be accompanied by hearing loss.
Hierarchy of controls
The hierarchy, commonly depicted as a triangle, is a hazard control system used to eliminate, or otherwise reduce exposure to hazards.
Elimination removes the hazard. This strategy should be the top priority.
Substitution reduces the hazard by replacing it with a less hazardous substitute. For example, a hazardous substance that is normally purchased as a powder could be replaced with a pelleted form that produces less airborne dust during handling.
Engineering controls remove or reduce the hazard through the design of the workplace, equipment and tools. Common examples include ventilation or enclosing hazardous processes.
Administrative controls eliminate or reduce exposure to the hazard by employing policies and procedures that reduce risk. Training is an example of an administrative control that increases "workers" knowledge of a hazard.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) reduces the risk of exposure to a hazard through the use of protective clothing or devices. PPE is the least effective way to protect workers and should only be used when other controls are not practical or adequate.
ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists)The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) is a scientific organization that develops occupational exposure limits for chemical and physical hazards. These limits can be found in their TLVs® and BEIs® book.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, acceptable occupational exposure limits are established by the ACGIH.
Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)
Threshold limit values represent conditions under which it is believed that nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, over a working lifetime, without adverse health effects.
CSACSA is the Canadian Standards Association Group. Certain CSA standards are available for online viewing.
To access these, you must first create an account with "CSA Communities".
Go to: https://community.csagroup.org/login.jspa?referer=%252Findex.jspa
Once you are logged in, click on the text below the "OHS Standards / View Access" graphic.
Click on the jurisdiction of your choice to see the CSA Standards as referenced in that legislation.
Standards may also be purchased from CSA Group: https://store.csagroup.org/
A healthcare professional whose focus is on the evaluation of hearing and rehabilitation of patients with hearing impairments.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.N.L. 1990, c. O-3
Section 6 Workers' general duty
6. A worker, while at work, shall take reasonable care to protect his or her own health and safety and that of workers and other persons at or near the workplace.
Section 7 Specific duties of workers
7. A worker
(a) shall co-operate with his or her employer and with other workers in the workplace to protect
(i) his or her own health and safety,
(ii) the health and safety of other workers engaged in the work of the employer,
(iii) the health and safety of other workers or persons not engaged in the work of the employer but present at or near the workplace;
(a.1) shall use devices and equipment provided for his or her protection in accordance with the instructions for use and training provided with respect to the devices and equipment;
(b) shall consult and co-operate with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate at the workplace; and
(c) shall co-operate with a person exercising a duty imposed by this Act or regulations.
[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 3; 2001, c. 10, s. 26; 2004, c. 52, s. 2]
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2012
Part I GENERAL
Section 2 Interpretation
2. (1) In these regulations
(a) "accident" includes
(i) an event occasioned by a physical or natural cause, or
(ii) disablement arising out of and in the course of employment;
(b) "ACGIH" means the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists;
(c) "Act" means the Occupational Health and Safety Act ;
(d) "administrative controls" means the provision, use and scheduling of work activities and resources in the workplace, including planning, organizing, staffing and coordinating, for the purpose of controlling risk;
(e) "ASHRAE" means the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers;
(f) "authorized" means, in reference to a person, a qualified person designated by an employer to carry out specific functions;
(g) "commission" means the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission established under the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act ;
(h) "competent" means a person who is
(i) qualified because of that person's knowledge, training and experience to do the assigned work in a manner that ensures the health and safety of every person in the workplace, and
(ii) knowledgeable about the provisions of the Act and these regulations that apply to the assigned work, and about potential or actual danger to health or safety associated with the assigned work;
(i) "construction" means building, erection, excavation, alteration, repair, renovation, dismantling, demolition, structural maintenance, painting, moving, land clearing, earth moving, grading, street and highway building, concreting, equipment installation and alteration and the structural installation of construction components and materials in any form or for any purpose, and work in connection with it;
(j) "CSA" means the Canadian Standards Association;
(k) "engineering controls" means the physical arrangement, design or alteration of workstations, equipment, materials, production facilities or other aspects of the physical work environment, for the purpose of controlling risk;
(l) "hazardous health occupation" means an occupation from which an occupational disease may arise;
(m) "hot work" means work which involves burning, welding, cutting, grinding, using fire or spark producing tools or other work that produces a source of ignition;
(n) "injury" means
(i) an injury as a result of a chance event occasioned by a physical or natural cause, (ii) an injury as a result of wilful and intentional act, not being the act of the worker, (iii) disablement, (iv) occupational disease, or (v) death as a result of an injury arising out of and in the course of employment and includes a recurrence of an injury and an aggravation of a pre-existing condition but does not include stress other than stress that is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event;
(o) "ISO" means the International Organization for Standardization;
(p) "mine" means mine as defined in the Mining Act ;
(q) "occupation" means an employment, business, calling or pursuit but does not include an endeavour that is not included in one of the classes of occupations in the current National Occupational Classification List developed by the Department of Human Resources and Social Development Canada in collaboration with Statistics Canada;
(r) "occupational disease" means a disease prescribed by regulations under section 90 of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act and another disease peculiar to or characteristic of a particular industrial process, trade or occupation;
(s) "occupational health service" means a service established in or near a workplace to maintain and promote the physical and mental well-being of workers and may include personnel, equipment, transportation, supplies and facilities;
(t) "plant" means buildings, equipment and facilities where a worker or self-employed person is engaged in an occupation;
(u) "professional engineer" means a person who holds a certificate of registration to engage in the practice of engineering under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act;
(v) "proof test" means a test applied to a product to determine material or manufacturing defects;
(w) "qualified" means being knowledgeable of the work, the hazards involved and the means to control the hazards, by reason of education, training, experience or a combination of them;
(x) "TLV" means the documentation of threshold limit values for chemical substances and physical agents in the work environment published annually or more frequently by the ACGIH; and
(y) "work platform" means an elevated or suspended temporary work base for workers.
(2) In these regulations, a reference to a code or guideline, unless otherwise stated, includes amendments to that code or guideline and a reference shall be presumed to be a reference to the most current code or guideline.
(3) Where there is a conflict between a standard established by these regulations or a code or standard adopted by these regulations, the more stringent standard applies.
Part III GENERAL DUTIES
Section 17 General duties of workers
17. (1) A worker shall make proper use of all necessary safeguards, protective clothing, safety devices, lifting devices or aids, and appliances
(a) designated and provided for his or her protection by the employer; or
(b) required under these regulations to be used or worn by a worker.
(2) A worker shall follow the safe work procedure in which he or she has been instructed.
(3) A worker shall immediately report a hazardous work condition that may come to his or her attention to the employer or supervisor.
Part VI OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH REQUIREMENTS
Section 68 Noise hazards
68. (1) When a worker is required to work in an area in which noise levels exceed the criteria for permissible noise exposure established by the ACGIH Noise Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)
(a) the employer shall first take appropriate action to implement control measures to reduce noise to acceptable levels; and
(b) where it is not practicable to reduce the noise to acceptable levels or to isolate workers from the noise, the workers shall wear personal protective equipment in accordance with CSA Z94.2 "Hearing Protection Devices - Performances, Selection, Care and Use" .
(2) Where conditions referred to in subsection (1) exist, an employer shall establish and maintain a hearing conservation program.
(3) A hearing conservation program established under subsection (2) shall comply with the following minimum requirements:
(a) a noise survey of the workplace to identify high noise areas shall be performed in accordance with CSA Z107.56 "Procedures for the Measurement of Occupational Noise Exposure" ;
(b) hearing tests for every worker exposed to noise levels in excess of permissible levels to be conducted on an annual basis or where recommended by an audiologist or occupational physician;
(c) a hearing test, within 3 months of commencement of employment, for each new worker who is exposed to noise in excess of the permissible levels; and
(d) mandatory training and education for all workers in the health hazards of noise and the fitting, maintenance, care and use of hearing protection.
(4) A hearing conservation program shall be documented and those records shall be kept by the employer or the employer designate while the worker remains employed by the employer.
(5) An employer shall post and maintain signs at entrances to or on the periphery of areas where persons are exposed to high noise levels in excess of the threshold limit.
(6) A sign referred to in subsection (5) shall clearly state that a noise hazard exists and shall describe the personal protective equipment that is required.
(7) Upon termination of employment, a worker may request from the employer a record of noise exposure during the term of employment.
- Hearing Aid Providers Directory of Newfoundland and Labrador
- Hearing Loss Claim – How to Make a Claim
- Hearing Loss Claim – What do I do next?
- Hearing Loss Related Claims – Injury Statistics
- Hearing Protection
- Industrial Hygiene Service Providers Directory of Newfoundland and Labrador
- Noise in the Workplace
- Occupational Disease