A 4-point compliance strategy for Ontario's new noise regulation

Feb 10, 2016

noise regulationA new noise regulation taking effect July 1 will help workplaces better protect employees from the debilitating effects of noise-induced hearing loss. It's more prevalent than you may think. Noise-induced hearing loss claims in Ontario exceed $50 million a year.

WSPS occupational hygienist Ilma Bhunnoo estimates that 90% of most production type workplaces, even warehousing, could have noise levels above the maximum allowable 85 decibel time-weighted average. But solutions don’t always have to be complicated or costly, she says.

See what's new, what you should have in place by July 1, and how we can help.

What's new

The most significant change is the addition of new industry sectors, such as farming and construction projects, that were not previously covered by noise prevention requirements.* "But for industry sectors already covered, such as the manufacturing and service sectors, there are other important points to consider," says Bhunnoo.

The new regulation protects hearing by

  • requiring employers to reduce noise exposure by applying a "hierarchy of controls." These controls are generally considered to include, in descending order, elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and finally personal protective equipment, such as hearing protection devices.
  • ensuring employers select the right hearing protection devices in situations where other controls are not appropriate. Selection must be based on the sound levels workers are exposed to and the devices' ability to attenuate sounds to an acceptable level.
  • specifying the instruction and training employers must provide to workers wearing a device. Training and instruction requirements are now more explicit in the regulation, and must include the device's limitations, proper fitting, inspection and maintenance and, if applicable, cleaning and disinfection.

Bhunnoo considers the requirement for a hierarchy of controls to be a useful reality check. "For workplaces that already have noise control programs, it means stepping back from what you're doing now, reassessing noise levels to determine the risk to employees, reviewing your existing control strategies, and making changes if called for."

"Start with simple questions," says Bhunnoo. "First of all, what are your noise sources? Why are they noisy? For example, if you have equipment producing a lot of vibration noise, could preventive maintenance reduce the amount of vibration? If people habitually leave the door to a compressor room open, how can you get them to keep the door closed? What other controls could you implement before turning to hearing protection? Wearing hearing protection devices is not always the least costly option for mitigating noise control."

4 things to have in place by July 1

Ilma Bhunnoo suggests your workplace have these elements in place as part of a compliance strategy:

  1. an up-to-date hazard assessment so that you know the noise exposure levels.
  2. a hazard control program that identifies noise sources and the measures taken to control them. If the plan is being implemented in phases, indicate what will be done and when.
  3. if providing hearing protection, then include
    • a selection process. Identify the noise source, employee exposure level, and the attenuation provided by the selected hearing protection. "Hearing protectors are rated according to noise reduction rating factors or classes. Make sure you're matching the proper hearing protection device to the sound level exposure of your worker."
    • a training program for workers on the device's limitations, proper fitting, inspection and maintenance and, if applicable, cleaning and disinfection.
  4. an up-to-date record of everything you've done. After July 1, Ministry of Labour inspectors will be encouraging compliance, particularly with training. Let your records demonstrate your commitment to protecting workers' hearing.

How we can help

  1. Know what you're dealing with by
  2. Expand your understanding by
    • taking these one-hour e-courses: Preventing Hearing Loss from Workplace Noise and Personal Protective Equipment: The Basics
    • signing up for Noise Control & Hearing Conservation, a half-day onsite course facilitated by a WSPS occupational hygienist
  3. Speak with one of our occupational hygienists. We can conduct noise assessments, and work with you to develop and implement noise control strategies.

 


* O. Reg. 381: Noise extends noise prevention requirements to all workplaces under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act. It supersedes existing requirements in regulations such as the Industrial Establishments Regulation (O. Reg. 851), which applies to manufacturing and service sector workplaces. WSPS will provide special coverage on implications for farming operations in the winter issue of WSPS Network News: Agricultural Industry Sector.