The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that approximately 30 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise. Ten million of them have suffered permanent hearing loss. This makes hearing loss the second most-reported type of occupational injury. Hearing conservation training aims to protect your employees.
October is National Protect Your Hearing month, which means it is a great opportunity to start a hearing conservation training program. Here’s what you need to know.
What is hearing conservation training?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that any workplace that exceeds noise over 85 decibels in an eight-hour period establish a hearing conservation training program.
You might assume that employees know to use protection when workplace noise is harmful. But 34% of workers exposed to harmful noise were not wearing hearing protection. This can lead to costly short-term damage and long-term loss.
Hearing conservation training covers:
- Identifying potential hazards
- Training employees on how to recognize them and protect themselves
- Monitoring changes in workplace noise and employee hearing health
This type of training offers the first line of protection for employees.
What are the basic elements of a hearing conservation training program?
The basic elements of a hearing conservation training focus on learning how to:
- Identify a potential hearing hazard
- Protect against it
- Monitor any effects it might have
Generally, it includes five parts.
1. Identifying potential hearing hazards
Identifying potential hazards means assessing the areas in the workplace with noise that reaches above 85 decibels consistently. This might be where machinery operates or where vehicles or other environmental noise is present.
Monitoring noise levels over time is important, too. There may be changes during the day when production levels increase or decrease. When changes occur, the number of employees who need to access hearing protection might change. This is crucial information for keeping employees safe.
Tip: You can also download NIOSH’s Sound Level Meter App to detect volume on your phone!
2. How to use hearing protection
Training on hearing protection includes helping employees select, use, and maintain their own personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, employees should learn how to choose between earplugs and earmuffs for their own comfort and protection.
This is the practical aspect of hearing safety training and a crucial part of keeping employees safe.
3. Running audiometric testing
Regular audiometric testing monitors an employee’s hearing over time. This helps prevent irreversible hearing loss in employees who are regularly exposed to excessive amounts of noise.
- Establishes a baseline for each employee
- Offers annual exams and follow-up options
- Provides additional hearing conservation training if needed
4. Communicating hazards
Employees must be trained on how to recognize unsafe noise levels and what to do if they are exposed. This training also helps employees recognize the signs of hearing damage or loss. It also guides them on what steps to take if it happens to them.
Some of this training should address how each company deals with employee hearing damage or loss, which may be bound to workman’s compensation laws. It’s also important that employees know how to access help if they feel their hearing has been compromised on the job.
5. Recordkeeping efforts
The final aspect of hearing conservation training falls squarely on employers. Employers are charged with monitoring potential noise exposures. They must usually also maintain audiometric testing records for all employees.
Only managers and administrators need to attend this portion of hearing conservation training.
How to create a hearing conservation training program
Creating your hearing conservation training starts by figuring out what employees need first.
This might include:
- Assessing noise levels
- Identifying potential affected employees
- Evaluating what noise protection is already in place
- Identifying resources that can help you build your training
Once this training needs analysis is complete, you can begin to put together a hearing conservation training program. Because a training program needs to be immediately useful to employees who are already working in noisy conditions, consider training in the flow of work with safety checklists. Checklists are a type of performance support that ensures that location-specific hazards are identified and proper protection is used.
Checklists can be linked with specific microlearning tools, too. For example, if employees do not already have hearing protection and can select their own, link a video to the checklist that provides an explanation of the different options.
Hearing conservation training isn’t just a one-and-done class offered during onboarding. Online hearing conservation training is a great way to offer employees annual refresher courses to keep hearing safety top-of-mind.
Create your hearing conservation training program
Training in an off-site classroom does not help employees reduce harm while they are on the job. Put tools and training in the palm of employees’ hands with just-in-time instruction delivered exactly when and where they need it. Turn to tools like microlearning, checklists, and other mobile-first support to implement your hearing conservation training program.
EdgePoint Learning can help. We offer co-development services or custom online training for all types of industries. We can even help you roll out in-the-flow-of-work performance support or microlearning tools so employees have what they need at their fingertips.
A hearing conservation training program is a critical part of safety for employees. EdgePoint Learning can help you design the one that fits your business. Let’s get started today.