Alberta noise exposure changes have finally released to our Occupational Health and Safety code. This is to protect workers from exposure to occupational noise hazards. In addition to clarifying technical terms, several changes will affect how companies manage their occupational noise exposure programs.
Hearing protection will be required for workers with around 82 decibels or more noise. It is currently at 85 decibels. This means that there will likely be more areas where noise exposure assessments are completed. This will lead to more places where hearing protection is required. Noise management programs must be reviewed annually rather than just elements of them.
Also, there is revised wording that clarifies that employers must ensure that the noise exposure assessment includes a record of the tasks carried out by the worker. These records must be maintained for at least three years. This aligns with other record retention timelines, such as chemical exposure assessment. Previously these records were to be kept as long as the employer operated.
Next, the wording has been clarified to ensure workers who are or may be exposed to noise must have hearing testing completed. Workers will still need to be paid by the employer when testing is done. The entire noise management program must be reviewed annually. In the past, just elements of the program were reviewed.
There is also a new requirement for fit testing for hearing protection. Quantitative or qualitative methods would do this. That means you need specific equipment to test whether the hearing protection is fitted correctly. The other option is to check manually. Here are the ways of checking manually:
Tips to check the fit of earplugs
– Feel if plugs are fully inserted
– Cup hands over ears; if sounds muffled, they are not fitted well
– Talk out loud; it should sound hollow
– Listen for sounds; they should not be as loud
Tips to check the fit of ear muffs
– Make sure the muff covers over the whole ear and has a seal
– Noises should sound muffled
Lastly, there are changes in the definition of a significant threshold shift. It is defined as a change in the hearing test as follows:
– Average shift of greater than or equal to 10db (30db or more combined) in either ear at (2000hz, 3000hz, or 4000hz).
– A shift greater than or equal to 15db at 3000 or 4000hz.
Consulting audiologists and physicians must notify employers when a significant threshold shift has been confirmed at least once per year. They must advise if there are any concerns about noise management in the area. Previously it needed to be clarified what information was to be provided.
With this, employers can see if any trends are starting to appear with noise exposure and assess and make the necessary Alberta noise exposure changes to the controls in place.