OSHA Hearing Conservation Programs – A Long-Awaited Shift

Earning a living should not come at the expense of hearing loss” – William Donovan, OSHA Acting Regional Administrator

Overlooking prolonged noise exposure is an expensive proposition.

  • According to the CDC, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical ailment in adults after hypertension and arthritis.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 people endure noise levels at work loud enough to cause hearing loss, while 7 in 10 experience moderately loud noise levels, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • BLS’s Occupational Requirements Survey, published in 2019, found that more than 50% of the nation’s manufacturing workers reported not using personal protective equipment to protect their hearing.
  • Organizations spend about USD 242 million annually on workers’ compensation for hearing loss disability.

Starting in 2002, OSHA implemented hearing conservation programs that require employers to monitor noise exposure levels and protect employees. Limiting noise exposure to noise at or above 85 decibels (dB) averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average. Recently, OSHA introduced a Regional Emphasis Program to address on-the-job noise hazards in the manufacturing industry, specifically targeting organizations in the Midwest.

This program aims to reduce workplace dangers, prevent workplace hearing loss, protect remaining hearing, and provide employers and workers with the knowledge and equipment to control and reduce exposure to noise for improved safety and compliance.

The first phase of the three-month outreach program includes informational mailings to employers, professional associations, local survey councils, apprenticeship programs, local hospitals, and occupational health clinics as well as OSHA presentations to industry organizations and stakeholders. Organizations can get a free consultation from OSHA experts to implement the right noise safety strategies.

The Regional Emphasis Program outlines:

  • Different types of noise monitoring required of employers.
  • Demands that exposure measurements include all continuous, intermittent, and impulsive noise within an 80 dB to 130 dB range. Employers must also repeat these measurements whenever changes in production, processes, or controls increase noise exposure.
  • Establishing and maintaining an audiometric testing program and referring employees for further testing if necessary.
  • Providing obligatory baseline audiograms and providing annual audiograms within one year of the baseline.
  • Mandatory employer responsibilities in ensuring proper hearing PPE distribution and access for all workers exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dB or above prior to them experiencing any hearing loss.

Hearing loss is avoidable with the right equipment, regular monitoring, and timely intervention. It is time to use intelligent technology solutions to drive behavioral shifts and improve worker safety through worker empowerment, strategic decision-making, and real-time information capture.

Connect and Empower

Technologies such as IoT, wearable devices, and sensor networks can connect industrial workplaces and provide insights to make better decisions. Integrating smart solutions into safety processes and powering them with the right technology improves worker safety.

Technologies such as IoT and sensors can power industrial wearables to automatically detect unsafe exposure to noise and generate local and remote alarms based on configurable rules and policies.

Improve Compliance and Decision-Making

Advanced worker safety solutions that use sensors and IoT can be used to drive PPE compliance. Workers are only safe if they use the technology and protective equipment available to them properly, and equipment is only effective if used in the appropriate situation.

Therefore, industrial safety solutions must be intuitive and workers trained to use the correct PPE based on the work location, job type, and other parameters.

Drive Behavior-Based Safety with Real-Time Information

Behavior-based safety (BBS) programs are easy to implement and can be boosted with help from connected technologies like real-time location services (RTLS), digital lockouts, geofences, zone marking, real-time proximity detection, and real-time notifications. These ensure access control to hazardous locations, restricting access to only those who are approved and are equipped with appropriate PPE.

BBS program success is tied to the correct use of technology and PPE by workers. By establishing the correct safety protocols and training their workforce in their use, employers can ensure that workers are more engaged and responsible towards safety and are therefore able to make workplaces inherently safer for employees. Preventing things such as work-related hearing injuries or loss.

About Guardhat

Guardhat is pioneering end-to-end connected worker safety solutions for industrial workers. Offering cutting-edge, wearable technology; a proprietary connected worker platform – unrivaled in its ability to ingest, manage and analyze unstructured data; easy to deploy monitoring and reporting software; and a growing ecosystem of partner integrations.

With Guardhat, companies can monitor worker location, health, and work environment to speed reaction time and help proactively solve safety challenges. The company holds 15 patents in real-time location systems, wearable solution design, and connected worker software. If you are interested in our wearable environmental monitoring devices, including noise-level sensors, or to see our systems in action; visit us at the opening of the Smart Factory at Wichita in June 2022, or contact us for a demo.


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