Hearing Conservation Program
Last Updated: 03/04/2018
The purpose of the Injury Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) is to outline Cal Maritime's environmental health and safety requirements, expectations, and responsibilities in order to achieve effective campus safety performance through Integrated Safety Management (ISM). The Hearing Conservation Program is a subject specific component the supports the overall University IIPP and as such the Director of Safety and Risk Management (SRM), as delegated by the University President, is responsible for the implementation and administrative management for Cal Maritime's Injury Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) that meets the requirements of California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 8, section 3203) as well as other applicable California and Federal Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) requirement.
The Cal Maritime Hearing Conservation Program, establishes procedures and responsibilities for Cal Maritime personnel (i.e., faculty, staff, students and volunteers) while engaged in University related activities. Per Cal/OSHA regulations and Cal Maritime Campus Policy, all Cal Maritime personnel who use hearing protection equipment and shall comply with the procedures contained herein.
Note: Training Ship Golden Bear (TSGB) is regulated under MARAD. For operations pertaining to the TSGB - Refer to Shoreside Administration Manual (SAM) and Vessel Operations Manual (VOM).
The purpose of this program is to protect Cal Maritime employees from hearing loss due to occupational noise exposure. Although Cal Maritime attempts to control noise to the extent possible, certain operations may expose faculty, staff, or students to significant noise levels. All personnel who are regularly exposed to occupational noise levels at or exceeding an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 dBA shall be included in the Hearing Conservation Program (HCP). This applies only to employees who incur exposure as part of their regularly assigned job duties.
This program was written to comply with Cal/OSHA regulations for Hearing Conservation (CCR, Title 8, Section 5097).
The Cal Maritime Hearing Conservation Program, through the requirements described in this program, establishes procedures and responsibilities for Cal Maritime students, faculty, staff and volunteers while engaged in University related activities.
Department of Safety & Risk Management (SRM)
The Cal Maritime Hearing Conservation Program is administered by SRM. SRM will function as a technical resource to departments and will assist them in carrying out their responsibilities as necessary. Specifically, SRM is responsible for:
- Developing and maintaining the Hearing Conservation Program and ensuring it meets all applicable regulatory requirements;
- Monitoring work site noise levels as requested and informing employees and supervisors of results;
- Recommending appropriate engineering and administrative noise control measures.
- Assisting employees in selection of proper protective devices and providing instruction on their use;
- Providing training on noise hazards and hearing conservation.
Department Heads and Chairs
Directors and Department Chairs are responsible for:
- Providing the necessary resources to ensure the health and safety of their employees;
- Identifying individuals as supervisors and ensuring they are trained on their health and safety responsibilities;
- Ensuring departmental compliance with campus health and safety policies and procedures;
- Ensuring hazards workplace hazards are identified and controlled.
Managers, Supervisors, and Principal Investigators
Managers, Supervisors, and Principal Investigators are responsible for:
- Ensuring their units understand and comply with the requirements of this program;
- Identifying noisy operations and controlling them to the greatest extent possible;
- Requesting SRM evaluate noisy operations that cannot be controlled;
- Providing hearing protective devices to employees and ensure that employees use such devices when appropriate;
- Ensuring employees exposed to noise levels at or above the Action Level are enrolled in the HCP;
- Posting signage in noisy areas requiring the use of hearing protection.
Employees, Students and Volunteers:
Employees, Students and Volunteers are responsible for:
- Understanding and complying with campus health and safety policies and procedures;
- Notifying their supervisor or SRM about any hazardous conditions observed on the worksite;
- Wearing approved hearing protective devices when required;
- Maintaining hearing protection in sanitary condition and proper working order;
- Reporting noise hazards and hearing protection problems to the appropriate supervisor or SRM.
Noise Reduction and Controls
Excessive noise shall be reduced or eliminated whenever possible. This shall include the implementation of engineering and/or administrative controls, when feasible. When engineering and administrative controls are not feasible, or during the evaluation and implementation of such controls, hearing protective equipment shall be used to protect employees as needed from excessive noise exposure.
Engineering controls are used to control the hazard at its source and should be implemented prior to using administrative controls whenever possible. The basic concept behind engineering controls is that, to the extent feasible, the work environment and the job itself should be designed to eliminate hazards or reduce exposure to hazards. These may include:
- Quieter machinery
- Quieter processes
- Reduction of noise transmission
- Isolation of equipment or equipment operator
- Proper maintenance of machinery and equipment
- Purchasing procedures that specify criteria for maximum noise levels
Administrative controls do not reduce or eliminate the hazard they simply reduce employee exposure to the hazard. Administrative controls may include:
- Rotation of employees to limit individual exposure times
- Flexible machinery operation schedules to limit exposures
- Work task arrangements that reduce the time an employee must spend in a noisy area
Noise Assessments and Exposure Monitoring
Noise exposure is described either in terms of an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level or a noise dose (in percent of the Permissible Exposure Limit). When employee exposure to occupational noise is equal to or exceeds an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dBA, or equivalently, a dose of 50 percent or greater, the employee must be included in the HCP.
Employees or their supervisors should contact SRM to schedule noise monitoring if they suspect exposures to excessive noise on the job, or if previously monitored noise levels have changed due to modifications to equipment or processes. SRM should also be contacted to schedule monitoring if the hearing protection in use is suspected of being inadequate. If desired, employees or their representatives may observe the noise monitoring procedure by arranging with SRM prior to the date of the monitoring. An employee's exposure shall be determined using the methods listed below
Preliminary Noise Assessment
A preliminary noise assessment consists of a walkthrough of all facility areas with a sound-level meter to identify operations or areas where employees may be exposed to hazardous noise levels. In this study, measurements are recorded as close as practical to the employee's workstation at approximated ear level. A facility layout or grid of plant areas may be useful for recording noise levels and identifying areas that require further study. While this study is intended as an overview of noise exposure, consideration should include variations in noise levels due to shift changes, operation of noise generating equipment, or other factors that could affect baseline levels.
Noise assessments are also used to identify campus locations or operations where noise levels exceed 90 dBA. These are areas where hearing protection should always be worn. Where information indicates that employees in that area may be exposed to noise levels equal to or exceeding the action level, individual exposure monitoring shall be conducted
SRM performs noise exposure monitoring for faculty, staff, and students who may be exposed to noise over Cal/OSHA's 85-decibel dBA action level on an eight-hour time-weighted average basis. Personal or area exposure monitoring is conducted using a noise dosimeter to identify employees and students for inclusion in the Hearing Conservation Program and to enable the proper selection of hearing protection.
Evaluations of employee exposure are recorded via the Cal Maritime Noise Dosimetry Form. This form allows for the documentation of all necessary information including name of employee, job classification, employee number; date, location, and results of measurements; and description of the noise measurement equipment and calibration information. Persons whose noise exposures have been monitored will receive written notification of their exposure monitoring results from SRM.
Persons whose eight-hour time-weighted average noise exposure exceeds the action level must be enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program. These individuals will be required to receive audiometric testing, participate in hearing conservation training and wear hearing protection when appropriate. Persons whose eight-hour time-weighted average noise exposure is less than 85 dBA will not be enrolled in the campus Hearing Conservation Program, and generally do not require audiometric testing or training.
Examples of campus personnel who may exceed the Action Level and require enrollment in the HCP are:
- Campus Shop Workers
- Emergency Responders
- Engineering Students, Faculty and Staff
- Facilities Management Staff
- Grounds Keepers
- Housing and Residential Services Staff
In order to remain enrolled in the Cal Maritime Hearing Conservation Program individuals must be up to date on all training and audiometric test requirements. SRM will notify program enrollees and their supervisors approximately one (1) month before the person becomes due for training or audiometric testing. When an individual is three (3) or more months overdue for one or more of the enrollment requirements, SRM will notify the employee and their supervisor that the user has been unenrolled from the program, and that they shall no longer perform work activities that require enrollment in the Hearing Conservation Program.
When an employee is enrolled in the Cal Maritime Hearing Conservation Program, they must complete baseline, annual, and post-employment audiometric tests. Audiometric tests can be scheduled by Cal Maritime Human Resources department. It is the responsibility of the supervisor of the identified department to schedule audiometric exams. The cost of the audiograms shall be covered by the employee's department.
To ensure accuracy, the audiometric test should be preceded by at least 14 hours without exposure to workplace or non-workplace noise. This will reduce the potential for the employee to be suffering from a temporary threshold shift, which would result in an incorrect evaluation of the employee's hearing threshold. Hearing protection may be used to provide the pre-test exposure control, providing its use is well supervised.
Everyone enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program must undergo testing to establish a baseline audiogram and to determine the person's "hearing threshold" and against which to compare subsequent audiograms. It is desirable to obtain the baseline audiogram as soon as possible (preferably within 60 days) from the date of the employee's first exposure to high noise levels and that employees be protected from workplace noise for at least 14 hours prior to the audiometric test in order to obtain a valid measurement.
Audiograms shall also be obtained at least annually for each employee exposed at or above the time-weighted average of 85 dBA. It is important to ensure that employees are protected from workplace noise for at least 14 hours prior to the audiometric test in order to obtain a valid measurement.
Post-employment audiograms must be completed when an employee leaves the job or workplace where he or she is no longer routinely exposed to noise level at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dBA. It is the responsibility of the employee and the supervisor to complete a postemployment audiogram. It is important to ensure that employees are protected from workplace noise for at least 14 hours prior to the audiometric test in order to obtain a valid measurement.
Evaluation of the Audiogram
An audiologist will evaluate audiometric test results and schedule any necessary follow-up evaluations. When medical personnel identify an employee with a significant threshold shift or a baseline audiogram showing early indications of hearing loss (i.e., an existing hearing level of 25 dB or greater between 500 and 4000 Hz, according to ANSI s3.6-1969), this information will be provided to SRM so the appropriate hearing conservation and training activities can be initiated to reduce the potential for further hearing loss. The employee will be notified of these results in writing within 30 days. He or she will be retrained on the hazards and precautions of working in noisy environments and will be issued hearing protective devices if they are determined appropriate by SRM and SOMC. Other modifications to the workplace may also be needed to reduce noise exposures to prevent additional hearing los
Significant Threshold Shifts
In the event that a significant threshold shift is detected, the employee should undergo another audiogram within 30 days of the first test to confirm the threshold shift. If a comparison of the annual audiogram to the baseline audiogram indicates a standard threshold shift, the employee shall be informed of this fact, in writing, within 21 days of the determination.
If a physician determines that the standard threshold shift is work related or aggravated by occupational noise exposure, the following steps shall be taken when a standard threshold shift occurs:
- An employee not using hearing protectors shall be fitted with hearing protectors, trained in their use and care, and required to use them.
- An employee already using hearing protectors shall be refitted and retrained in the use of hearing protectors and provided with hearing protectors offering greater attenuation if necessary.
- Exposure monitoring shall be conducted to reassess the employee's exposure to noise.
- Refer the employee for a clinical audiological evaluation or an ontological examination, as appropriate, if additional testing is necessary or if the employer suspects that a medical pathology of the ear is caused or aggravated by the wearing of hearing protectors.
- Inform the employee of the need for an ontological examination if a medical pathology of the ear which is unrelated to the use of hearing protectors is suspected.
Hearing Protection Equipment
Provision of Hearing Protection Equipment
Where required, departments shall provide hearing protection to employees at no cost. Hearing equipment shall be immediately replaced by the department when broken, defective, or unsanitary. SRM can help determine appropriate types of hearing protection for specific situations, and provide training on its proper use and care upon request.
Selection of Hearing Protection Equipment
Hearing protection shall exceed the minimum noise attenuation rating required to ensure the employee's noise exposure is below the permissible exposure limit. For employees who have experienced a standard threshold shift, hearing protectors must attenuate employee exposures to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or below. Employees shall be given the opportunity to provide input in the selection process.
Hearing Protection Noise Attenuation
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given working environment. The higher the NRR number associated with a hearing protector, the greater the noise attenuation it provides. However, the effectiveness of hearing protection can be greatly reduced if the hearing protectors do not fit or are not worn properly, or if they are worn only part time during periods of noise exposure. The adequacy of hearing protector attenuation shall be reevaluated whenever employee noise exposures increase to the extent that the hearing protectors provided may no longer provide adequate attenuation.
When selecting hearing protection the following method by which to estimate the adequacy of hearing protection attenuation shall be used:
- Obtain the employee's A-weighted TWA.
- Subtract 7 dB from the NRR, and subtract the remainder from the A-weighted TWA to obtain the estimated A-weighted TWA under the ear protector.
Use of Hearing Protection Equipment
It is the responsibility of managers, principal investigators, and supervisors to ensure that campus personnel wear appropriate hearing protection when required.
At Cal Maritime, the use of hearing protection is required:
- For all personnel exposed above the 85 dBA TWA action level.
- During operations or in areas where the ambient noise levels meet or exceed 90 dBA.
- For all individual who have experienced a standard threshold shift.
- In all areas posted or otherwise designated as requiring hearing protection.
In all locations where noise levels are expected to exceed 90 dBA due to the operation of noisy equipment or machinery, signage must be installed to warn people that they must wear hearing protection when the noisy equipment is in use. For example, in the various pump stations across campus, signage has been installed stating, "Hearing protection must be worn when pumps are operating". Contact SRM to coordinate the installation of signage if it is necessary in your work area.
Hearing conservation training is required for all employees who are enrolled in the HCP. Additionally, information regarding the Hearing Conservation shall be available to all employees through the Cal Maritime Hearing Conservation Website, employee orientation, job training and instruction, specific training programs, or periodic safety meetings.
Hearing conservation training is required for all employees who are enrolled in the HCP and shall be repeated at least annually. Training is provided by SRM and can be customized for specific work groups. Both the employee's department and SRM shall maintain training records. Training topics shall include the following:
- The effects of noise on hearing;
- The purpose of hearing protectors, the advantages, disadvantages, and attenuation of various types, and instructions on selection, fitting, use, and care;
- The purpose of audiometric testing, and an explanation of the test procedures.
- Areas where hearing protection must be worn;
- Requirements of Cal Maritime's Hearing Conservation Program.
Noise exposure measurement records are maintained by SRM. Area noise exposure data are retained for a minimum of two years, and personal exposure data are retained indefinitely.
Audiometric test results are maintained by the employee's department and should be retained for the duration of the person's employment at Cal Maritime.
Employees have the right to review records of their noise exposure data and audiometric tests. It is a common procedure that these records are made available to employees.
Departments shall retain training records for at least ten years after the person has retired or left University employment. Training completed/recorded on the Learning Management System (LMS) is kept indefinitely.
The exposure at which an employee must be enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program. *Cal/OSHA has set the current action level at an 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) average over an eight-hour period or a 50 percent dose.
Audiometric testing -
Exams that measure the sensitivity of a person's hearing threshold in decibels. The testing also establishes a baseline hearing threshold that is compared to later exams to determine if hearing loss has occurred.
Decibel (dB) -
The standard unit used to measure sound level. The A-weighted decibel scale, abbreviated as dBA, is commonly used to measure sounds heard by the human ear. The decibel scale is logarithmic, and every three dBA is a doubling of the sound level.
Hertz (Hz) -
The unit of measure for noise frequency in cycles per second. (1 cycle/ second = 1Hz
Permissible exposure limit (PEL)
The maximum legal noise exposure, established by Cal/OSHA. The current 8-hour time-weighted average Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for noise is 90 dBA (2016).
Noise reduction rating (NRR) -
A measure of the noise reduction that a given hearing protective device provides.
Recommended Exposure Limit
The maximum recommended noise exposure, established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). The current 8-hour time-weighted average Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for noise is 85 dBA (2016).
Standard threshold shift (STS)
A change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10 dBA or more at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz in either ear.
Hearing Conservation Program, California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5097, California Department of Industrial Relations State regulations:
Title 8, California Code of Regulations, Article 105, Sections 5096-5100: "Control of Noise Exposure"
29 CFR 1910.95: "Occupational Noise Exposure"
American National Standards Institute (ANSI):
S1.11-1971: "Specification for Octave, Half-Octave, and Third-Octave Band Filter Sets"
S1.25-1978: "Specification for Personal Noise Dosimeters" S1.4-1971: "Specification for Sound Level Meters"
S3.6-1969: "Specifications for Audiometers"