Hearing Protection Fit TestingOccupational Health Testing
By Shift OHS Inc. on July 10, 2023
On March 31, 2023, changes to Part 16 of the Alberta OHS Code – Noise Exposure came into effect. This new legislation outlines the requirement to complete fit testing on all hearing protection devices in use by employees working in areas where hearing protection is required.
Section 3(1) of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act states that “every employer shall ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable for the employer to do so, the health and safety and welfare of workers engaged in the work of that employer”. According to Part 16 of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code, to ensure the audiometric safety of its employees, an employer must provide the following:
1. Noise Exposure Assessment – determines employee exposure to noise above the occupational exposure limit (OEL). Part 16 requires noise exposure assessments to be completed for all work areas where noise exposure is at or above 82 decibels (dBA). These assessments must be done in compliance with CSA Standard Z94.2-14 (R2019).
2. Noise Management Program.
- Employee education
- Noise assessment procedures
- Methods of noise control
- Hearing protection (selection, use, and maintenance)
- Hearing protection fit testing
- Audiometric testing
- Annual program review
3. PPE – hearing protection
4. Audiometric Testing
- Initial baseline test ASAP, but no later than 6 months after the worker is employed or within 6 months of noise exposure (Pre-Employment / Baseline test)
- 1 year after the initial / baseline test (Periodic test)
- At least every other year / biannually (Periodic test)
- Abnormal results must be forwarded to an Audiologist for review
Hearing Protection Fit Testing is a preventative measure that helps to mitigate the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Fit testing the hearing protection being used by your workers ensures that they are receiving adequate protection for the noise level they work in. It also provides an opportunity to educate your workers on how to properly use hearing protection and to ensure that the devices used fit the worker. The effectiveness of hearing protection is significantly reduced if the equipment does not fit correctly or is not inserted or worn correctly.
TYPES OF HEARING PROTECTION FIT TESTING:
There are two types of hearing protection fit testing approved under the Alberta OHS Code:
Qualitative Hearing Protection Fit Tests: the use of a pass or fail screening to decide if an employee’s hearing protection is working effectively. This test relies on the person’s ability to detect a specific sound through hearing protection. Quantitative Hearing Protection Fit Tests: the use of specialized equipment to obtain an accurate and objective measurement of the amount of sound that is getting through a person’s hearing protection. This test provides the worker’s actual personal attenuation rating (PAR) on their specific hearing protection device an accurate and objective measurement of the effectiveness of hearing protection.
BENEFITS OF HEARING PROTECTION FIT TESTING:
There are various regulations and standards put in place to aid in the protection of workers from noise-induced hearing loss. The following are some of the benefits of hearing protection fit testing as per CSA Standard Z94.2-14 (R2019):
Increased Effectiveness: Fit testing ensures that the hearing protection device (HPD) fits the individual’s ears properly and creates a good seal, which can reduce the amount of noise exposure and help prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Demonstration by our nurse/tech followed by practice by the employee (under close supervision) is completed to ensure the best fit of hearing protection.
Compliance with Legislation: Fit testing can help ensure that the hearing protection provided is adequate and meets regulatory requirements.
Individualized Protection: Ear canals come in different shapes and sizes, what works for one might not work for another. Fit testing aids in identifying the best hearing protection, as well as the correct size.
Increased Awareness: Education is key, making employees aware of the importance of wearing hearing protection, how to properly fit and use it, along with consequences of over/under protection. Reducing the risk of noise-induced hearing loss is our goal, along with improving the safety of employees in the workplace. Reduction of Liability: Positively contributes to Noise Conservation Programs and assists in reducing noise-induced hearing loss claims.
Shift OHS Inc.’s Hearing Protection Fit Testing includes the following:
- Qualified technicians and proper test environments within Alberta
- Where quantitative fit testing is available, quantitative equipment designed to meet CSA standard Z94.2-14
- The technician will complete the employee history and an examination of the ear
- Test results explained to an employee with instruction/educational information regarding the proper use of hearing protection
- Record of results provided to the employee
- Complete reporting to the employer
- Onsite hearing protection fit testing is available • Record retention (in accordance with Part 16, 223(2)(f) of the Alberta OH&S Code)
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