NIOSH checklist helps companies evaluate the effectiveness of Hearing Loss Prevention Programs

Although much has been done to reduce hearing hazards in the workplace, occupational hearing loss is still the number one reported worker illness in manufacturing. Every day noises are more dangerous than some workers think and it’s estimated 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise each year. A few examples: a jack hammer is 105 dBA, a forklift in a warehouse is 96 dBA, a leaf blower is 90 dBA.

Almost all Hearing Loss Prevention Programs (HLPP) require six elements: the measurement of noise levels, the implementation of noise controls, hearing tests, training of workers, the provision of hearing protection equipment, and recordkeeping. Yet, there were no agreed-upon standards about how to evaluate such programs.

In 2017, Researchers at the University of Washington, University of Michigan, and Yale University completed a NIOSH-funded study to evaluate the effectiveness of individual elements of industrial hearing loss prevention programs. The researchers examined programs at 14 facilities operated by a single US metals manufacturing company. Using the results of this evaluation, the researchers developed a hearing loss prevention program checklist to allow program managers and staff to assess their own programs in two ways. First, they can assess compliance with program requirements from OSHA. Second, they can assess the extent to which they are employing best practices identified by the researchers, as well as NIOSH and other agencies and organization.

They also developed a calculator that allows facilities to estimate the cost of their HLPP, both overall and by program element. Both tools can be found here.

The effects of employee hearing loss are costly to the employer and devastating to workers. The risk of injuries on the job increase, productivity is reduced, communication ability declines, and other health problems can arise.

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