On July 1, 2016, occupational health and safety law will change for industrial and mining workplaces in Ontario. Industrial Regulation 851 and Mining Regulation 854 references to noise hazards in the Occupational Health and Safety Act will be revoked and replaced by a new noise regulation (381/15). Noise-induced hearing loss is a serious and ongoing occupational disease that can often take years to develop.
The new legislation is designed to effectively protect workers’ hearing with an emphasis on the following components.
1. Noise exposure limit for workers
The maximum time-weighted noise exposure limit for workers is 85 decibels over an eight-hour work shift.
2. Hierarchy of controls
A "hierarchy of controls" must be put in place to reduce workers’ exposure. These measures could include engineering controls, work practices, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of hearing protection devices (HPD). Where PPE is used, employers must ensure workers select the correct PPE in situations where other controls are not available. For example, selection of Hearing Protection Devices (HPDs) must be based on sound levels to which workers may be exposed, and the HPD’s ability to effectively reduce the level of noise that reaches the ear to less than 85dBA.
3. Training and instruction
For workers who use a hearing protection device, training and instruction about the device must be provided, including limitations, proper fitting, inspection, maintenance and, where applicable, the cleaning and disinfection of the device.
What can your workplace do?
Use the R-A-C-E system to improved workplace safety:
Recognize your noise hazards in your workplace. Take stock – conduct a survey of workplace noise.
Assess the level of risk.
Control for noise hazards using the hierarchy of controls as listed in the legislation.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the controls employed in your workplace.
Addressing controls at the source can be as simple as preventive maintenance to reduce vibration through proper lubrication. Enclosures designed for the type of noise being generated can help reduce sound levels. Closing doors to boiler and compressor rooms can not only eliminate noise to surrounding areas, it can also provide proper isolation related to other safety hazards. Often workplaces select hearing protective devices (HPDs) as the solution. Look for creative solutions to reduce the reliance on the use of HPDs.
Four steps to a healthier workplace
1. Conduct a workplace assessment
2. Develop a workplace hazard control program
a. Implement a Hearing Protective Device selection process – and note where PPE (HPDs) is to be used.
b. Train workers and supervisors on HPD selection, use and care
3. Maintain records of the above activities
4. Evaluate effectiveness and include in documentation noted in step 3.
How WSN can help
Contact your Health and Safety Specialist for more information, an explanation of the legislation, and to conduct noise testing in your workplace.
Dan Suess has been with the Pulp and Paper Safety and Health Association, now a part of Workplace Safety North (WSN), since 2002, and serves member firms in the Greater Toronto Area. Dan is a member of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, and in 2008 successfully completed the Canadian Standards Association courses for OHSAS 18001 Internal Auditor and OHSAS 18001:2007 Lead Auditor training programs.
Noise – Occupational Exposure Limits in Canada – Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety