Hearing loss caused by exposure at work to excessive noise levels is a common occupational illness. And sadly, such hearing loss is also permanent. So it’s critical that employers take steps to keep workers from being exposed to loud noise for extended periods of time to prevent their hearing from becoming impaired in the first place. To help protect workers in Ontario from noise-induced hearing loss, the province introduced a new noise regulation (Regulation 381/15: Noise). Here’s a look at the new regulation and its requirements.
Key Dates: The new regulation was approved on Dec. 9, 2015. Its new requirements take effect on July 1, 2016.
Impacted Workplaces: The new regulation replaces the noise protection requirements contained in the regulations for industrial establishments, mines and mining plants, and oil and gas-offshore, and extends the noise protection requirements to all workplaces covered by the OHS Act. In addition, the Farming Operations Regulation was also amended so the new noise regulation applies to farming operations. Other new workplaces covered by the noise protection requirements include construction projects, healthcare facilities, schools, fire and police services, and amusement parks.
Key Changes: The key changes to the noise protection requirements include:
- A ban on worker exposure to noise for more than a maximum time-weighted exposure limit of 85 decibels over an eight-hour work shift;
- A duty for employers to take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels. Those measures should be based on the hierarchy of controls, including engineering controls, work practices and the use of PPE in the form of hearing protection devices; and
- A requirement that employers who provide a worker with a hearing protection device provide adequate training and instruction to the worker on the care and use of the device, including its limitations, proper fitting, inspection and maintenance, and, if applicable, the cleaning and disinfection of the device.
According to NIOSH, hearing loss can have a profound impact on workers’ quality of life. The effects start small and progress as hearing loss worsens. These effects can touch on nearly every aspect of a worker’s life, from making conversations and participating in social gatherings difficult to losing enjoyment in music and TV to compromising safety both in and outside of the workplace. And all of these impacts can take a toll on a worker’s mental health, leading to depression and anxiety. Thus, employers in Ontario and elsewhere should ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect their workers’ hearing, such as hearing conservation plans.