The University of Kentucky is committed to providing work, study, and research environments that are free from recognized hazards, including those that result from high-noise environments. The purpose of the Hearing Conservation Program is to provide for the protection of University personnel from long term hearing loss associated with noise levels in the workplace in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR Part 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure.
Hearing Conservation Program (HCP)
All UK personnel whose noise exposures equal or exceeds an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) of 85 decibels, also known as the OSHA action level, must be enrolled in a HCP. The hearing conservation program includes:
- Annual monitoring of noise exposures
- Annual training on noise exposures
- Use of hearing protectors
- Annual audiometric testing
Recognition and Evaluation of Noise Sources
When information indicates that any employee's exposure may equal or exceed 85 decibels (8-hour TWA), the department is to notify UK Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) to implement a monitoring program. The noise survey is performed using a sound level meter (A-scale, slow response) and/or noise dosimeter for evaluation of personal exposures. Monitoring shall be repeated whenever a change in production, process, equipment or controls increases noise exposures to the extent that additional employees may be exposed at or above the action level; or the attenuation provided by hearing protectors being used by employees is not adequate.
Annual audiometric testing is performed by a licensed or certified audiologist. A baseline audiogram is obtained within 6 months of an employee's first exposure at or above the action level. The baseline audiogram is established to compare against subsequent audiograms. The results of the audiometric tests are sent to the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health for review and to determine whether audiograms require further evaluation. Employees are to be notified, in writing, of the results of exams. When there is a verified standard threshold shift, the employee must be notified within 21 days after verification.
Control of Noise Source
When employees are subjected to sound levels exceeding 85 decibels (8-hour TWA), feasible administrative or engineering controls are to be utilized. Types of administrative controls are rotation of employees, limiting time of certain operations, or restricting areas or work operations. Engineering controls include maintenance, modifying equipment, substitution of equipment, isolation, and acoustic material.
Hearing Protection Devices
If feasible engineering or administrative controls cannot be accomplished, personal hearing protective devices must be provided and used to reduce sound levels in areas above 85 dBA. The hearing protection used will depend on the operation, employee preference and attenuation required. UK OHS can assist in supplying information on attenuation data and supervise the correct use of hearing protectors. Employees are given the opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitable types. Personal protective devices should also be used during non-routine, infrequent operations, which do not warrant special engineering control.
For employees who have experienced a standard threshold shift, hearing protectors must attenuate employee exposure to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or below. The adequacy of hearing protector attenuation shall be re-evaluated whenever employee noise exposures increase to the extent that the hearing protectors provided may no longer provide adequate attenuation.
Signs are to be posted in areas where noise levels are above 85 dBA stating that hearing protection is required.
An annual training program is provided for each employee included in the hearing conservation program. The training program includes effects of noise on hearing; the purpose of hearing protectors, and instruction on their selection, fitting, use, and care; and the purpose of audiometric testing.
- World Health Organization, Occupational Exposure to Noise: Evaluation, Prevention, and Control
- CDC: How to Wear Soft Foam Earplugs
- CDC Power Tools Database: sound specifications for various types of power tools
- NASA Education Auditory Research (EAR) Lab