The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health consider noise as hazardous when it reaches 85 decibels or higher, or if a person has to raise his/her voice to speak with someone 3 feet away/arm’s length away (NIOSH, 2018). Of Canadians aged 16 to 79, 42% have worked or currently work in an environment where it is required to speak in a raised voice to communicate with someone standing an arm’s length away (Statistics Canada, 2016).
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss and occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain3. Sensorineural hearing loss can occur following exposure to loud and prolonged noise which may be experienced in work environments3.
The current standard for occupational noise exposure is defined in O. Reg. 381. The Regulation stipulates an Leq of 85 dBA for an 8 hour period (Lex,8). The noise exposure limits are based on a 3 dB exchange rate. This means that for every 3 dB increase in sound pressure level, the length of exposure should be reduced by half. Further information can be found on the MOL website under “A Guide to the Noise Regulation (O. Reg. 381/15) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act”4. In addition, based on CSA Standard Z1007-16, it is generally accepted that Lex,8 greater than 80 dBA is considered hazardous noise.
In accordance with O. Reg. 381, employers must put in place measures to reduce workers’ exposure based on a “hierarchy of controls”4. This includes engineering controls, work practices, and the use of hearing protection devices4. Employers who provide a worker with a hearing protection device must provide adequate training and instruction in the care and use of the device, its limitations, proper fitting, inspection and maintenance, and cleaning and applicable disinfection, and storage
Currently, there has been no Canadian study that has measured the exposure of Occupational Hygienists who conduct noise assessments in various workplaces. The present WSPS Noise Exposure Awareness study will gather sound level measurements which will determine WSPS Subject Matter Expert (SME) exposure during on site assessments. The goal is to generate a warehouse of objective exposure data that would assist in creating, verifying and/or modifying OHS Policy for WSPS.
Organizations that have already asked WSPS for a ‘Noise Assessment’ have helped WSPS collect the data for this project. While conducting the assessment, an SME or occupational hygienist wore an additional Noise Dosimeter that allowed them to record the cumulative noise exposure on themselves. The dosimeters were attached to the outside edge of the WSPS employees shoulder to represent the workers’ hearing zone. The noise levels were recorded for a period of approximately 6 hours using the data logging feature of the dosimeters. The length of sampling depended on the workers presence within the area, location or facility.
To ensure we have robust data to determine noise exposure of WSPS SMEs and Occupational Hygienist, the research team will continue collecting noise exposure data to the end of the calendar year 2019. Check this space for more
For more information on the study or how you can get advice on reducing noise in your workplace contact WSPS for a qualified WSPS Occupational Hygienist.
- Canadian Standards Association (2014) Z94.2-14, “Hearing Protection Devices- Performance, selection, care and use”.
- Canadian Standards Association. (2017). Z1007-16, “Hearing Loss Prevention program (HLPP) Management”.
- Feder, K., Michaud, D., Beauregard, Y., and Fitzpatrick, E. 2016. “Prevalence of hearing loss among a representative sample of Canadian children and adolescents, 3 to 19 years of age.” Ear and Hearing, in press.
- Ontario Ministry of Labour. (2016). A Guide to the Noise Regulation (O. Reg. 381/15) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act Appendix C: Selection of Hearing Protection Devices and De-Rating Schemes.