The purpose of North Carolina State University’s Hearing Conservation Program (HCP) is to provide for the protection of University employees from long term hearing loss from exposure to excessive noise while at work. Although NCSU attempts to control noise exposures on campus, certain operations and work stations may expose staff to significant noise levels. The HCP was developed following all the requirements of OSHA’s Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (29 CFR Part 1910.95).
All University employees whose noise exposures equal or exceeds an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) of 85 decibels are enrolled in a HCP. A general rule of thumb for detecting excessive noise levels is if you have to raise your voice when talking to someone 3 feet away. The key elements of NCSU’s HCP include:
- monitoring of noise exposures
- audiometric (hearing) testing
- control of noise source
- use of hearing protection devices
- annual training on noise exposures
Recognition and Evaluation of Noise Sources
When information indicates that an employee’s exposure may equal or exceed the action level of 85 decibels (dBA) for an 8-hr time weighted average (8hr TWA), Environmental Health and Safety can be contacted to conduct a noise survey of the employee’s work area. The noise survey is performed using a sound level meter (A-scale, slow response) and/or noise dosimeter for evaluation of personal exposures. The employee is to be notified when he/she is exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels. 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. All employees who are participating in the HCP must document their noise exposure yearly on a Hearing Conservation Program Log.
Audiometric testing is performed at the NCSU’s Student Health Services, Occupational Medicine or local medical provider for NCSU remote sites. 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 subsequent audiometric tests are reviewed by Occupational Medicine staff to identify changes in hearing threshold levels that would require further evaluation.
Audiometric tests are to be pure tone, air conduction, hearing threshold examinations, with test frequencies including as a minimum 500, 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, and 6000 Hz. Tests at each frequency are to be taken separately for each ear. 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.
To arrange for audiometric testing please complete and send the following forms in a sealed envelope to: Occupational Medicine Coordinator, Student Health Services, 2815 Cates Ave. Campus Box 7304, Raleigh, NC 27695-7304. (515-513-0277)
Control of Noise Source
When employees are subjected to sound levels exceeding 85 dBA 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, such as ear plugs, ear muffs, or canal caps, 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. EHS will to 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 hearing protectors. Personal protective devices should also be used during non-routine, infrequent operations, which do not warrant special engineering control. For more information see factsheet Hearing Protection Devices.
The University strongly encourages the use of hearing protection devices while working around noisy equipment. The use of hearing protection devices are required for the following:
- When the exposure is 90 dBA, or greater
- When the exposure is 85 dBA, or greater, and the employee has experienced a threshold shift
- When the exposure is 85 dBA, or greater, and the employee has not yet had a baseline audiogram established.
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.
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 and explanation of audiometric testing.
Signs are to be posted in areas where noise levels are above 85 dBA stating that hearing protection is required. It is to read: “Caution: Hearing Protection Required”.
Environmental Health and Safety will retain records on exposure assessment and measurements. The University’s Occupational Medicine shall retain employee audiometric test records pursuant section g of OSHA’s occupational noise exposure standard (1910.95). At minimum these shall include name, job classification, date of audiogram, examiners name, date of last acoustic or exhaustive calibrations of audiometer, and background sound pressure levels measurements of the audiometric testing room. Employee audiometric records shall be retained for the duration of the affected employee’s employment. Noise exposure measurements records shall be retained for a minimum of two years.
- Notify the EHS if excessive noise is present or suspected in the work environment.
- Provide hearing protection devices (ear plugs or muffs) to employees at no cost to the employee, and make certain that devices are worn.
- Assure that employees who are required to receive an annual hearing exam receive the exam at no cost to the employee.
- Assure that employees complete a Hearing Conservation Program Log if they are participating in the annual hearing exam clinic.
- Assure that employees who are using hearing protection devices receive annual training on the use and care of devices
- Maintain any physician reports in a confidential manner
- Provide signage at entrances to alert employees that hearing protection is required.
Environmental Health & Safety Center Responsibilities
- Oversee the Hearing Conservation Program for the University.
- Conduct noise exposure assessment.
- Provide recommendations on noise controls and hearing protection.
- Act as NC State liaison with the medical provider and supervisor.
Occupational Medicine Responsibilities
- Coordinate and/or perform annual audiometric testing for affected personnel.
- Maintain audiometric testing equipment per OSHA requirements.
- Review audiograms and provide reports on results.
- Provide follow-up and referral for employees with standard threshold shifts.
- Maintaining audiometric testing records.
- Provide annual training to employees on effects of noise; the purpose,
advantages, and disadvantages of various types of hearing protectors; the
selection, fit, and care of protectors; and the purpose and procedures of
- Observing the procedures and requirements outlined in this Program.
- Attending training sessions and obtaining audiometric testing.
- Properly wearing hearing protection as required.
- Notifying supervisors of changes in the workplace that could change noise