SM 445-2-H CHAPTER 19
Industrial Hygiene - Hearing Conservation Program
Instruction: Chapter 19 is revised to incorporate requirements which were omitted in the original chapter and to correct errors. Appendix 19-1 Sample Hearing Conservation Program has been added to aid managers in establishing the program when required.
1. Purpose. To specify the minimum Occupational Safety and Health Program (Program) requirements for providing personnel adequate protection from noise within the Department of the Interior (Department or DOI) and U.S. Geological Survey (Bureau or USGS).
A. 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure.
B. 29 CFR 1910.95 Appendix A, Noise Exposure Computation.
C. 29 CFR 1910.95 Appendix B, Methods for Estimating the Adequacy of Hearing Protector Attenuation.
D. OSHA Publication 3074, Hearing Conservation
E. Department of the Interior Occupational Medicine Program Handbook
This section covers all USGS employees who are exposed to hazardous noise levels. Personnel who are intermittently exposed to hazardous noise shall be provided hearing protection devices. Employees whose 8-hour time weighted average Time-weight average (TWA) exposure exceeds 85 decibels weighted on an “A” scale (dBA) or impact noise exceeding 140 dBA shall be included in a formal Hearing Conservation Program. This chapter supplements those requirements established in 29 CFR 1910.95.
A. The USGS shall provide a hearing conservation program for personnel who are exposed to noise equal to or exceeding an 8-hour TWA of 85 dBA. The written program will comply with current OSHA regulations, as a minimum. Medical evaluations of personnel exposed to noise in excess of the standards shall be conducted prior to employee assignment to the noise hazard area and should be performed consistent with guidelines in the Department of the Interior Occupational Medicine Program Handbook.
B. It is not necessary for every noise to be measured in every workplace. Noise monitoring or measuring must be conducted only when exposures are at or above 85 dB. In general, any area that requires shouting to be heard at a distance of 3 feet is likely to have a hazardous noise level and should be further evaluated to quantify the noise hazard level. Noise hazardous activities are those that expose personnel to 85 dBA. Factors which suggest that noise exposures in the workplace may be at this level include: employee complaints about the loudness of noise, indications that employees are losing their hearing, or noisy conditions which make normal conversation difficult. Information regarding noise emitted from specific machines should be considered. The following activities within the USGS typically exceed 85 dBA: special use vehicles (airboats, swamp buggies, snowmobiles), aircraft, generators, most heavy equipment (tractors, backhoes/loaders, road graders), lawn and garden equipment (mowers, weed eaters, chainsaws, wood chippers), pile drivers, cookie or swamp trail cutters, cranes/drag lines, crawler-tractors, electrofishing units, cannon/rocket netting, blasting, firearms, pneumatic tools, handheld power tools, and metal or wood working machinery.
C. To the maximum extent possible, engineering controls will be used to reduce noise exposure. Where this is not operationally possible or practical, administrative controls and hearing protection devices shall be used to reduce noise exposure to acceptable levels.
D. Noise surveys shall be performed of suspected noise hazardous areas. Signs shall be posted at the entrance to any work area or on any piece of equipment that exposes personnel to 85 dBA or above. Hearing protection devices shall be made available to all personnel who must enter areas or work with equipment where noise levels exceed 85 dBA steady state or 140 dBA impact.
E. For personnel whose job duties routinely expose them to hazardous noise, or where a job hazard analysis (JHA [see Chapter 2 in this Handbook]) otherwise indicates employee exposure may equal or exceed an 8-hour TWA of 85 dBA, noise monitoring shall be conducted in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.95(d). Employees exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels will be notified of the results of the monitoring.
F. In areas and occupations where noise exposure cannot be reduced below an 8-hour TWA of 85 dBA, all affected personnel shall be included in a Hearing Conservation Program, which includes
1. Audiometric testing program per 29 CFR 1910.95(g).
2. A choice of hearing protectors which will attenuate employee exposure at least to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 90 or less per 29 CFR 1910.95(i) and (j).
3. Annual training per 29 CFR 1910.95(k) on 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; and the purpose of audiometric testing, and an explanation of the test procedures.
A. Bureau Safety Manager/Industrial Hygienist.
1. Conducts periodic evaluations of Regional Headquarters and regional science programs to determine the effectiveness and degree of hearing conservation program administration and implementation.
2. Provides guidance to Regional Safety Managers on implementation of the hearing conservation program to ensure compliance with DOI and USGS standards.
3. Reviews hearing conservation programs at Regional Headquarters locations.
B. Regional Safety Manager.
1. Conducts periodic evaluations of Regional Headquarter and regional science program organizations to determine the effectiveness and degree of hearing conservation program administration and implementation.
2. Assists Regional Safety Officers and Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinators (CDSPCs) in determining training needs, coordinating with the Bureau Industrial Hygienist, as necessary, to assess and evaluate established training adequacy and cost effective approaches toward meeting the needs of the Region.
3. Assists Science Program CDSPCs in establishing Public Health Service contracts for noise monitoring at field locations with assistance as necessary from the Bureau Industrial Hygienist.
C. Regional Safety Officer.
1. Conducts periodic evaluations of science program field organizations to determine the effectiveness and degree of hearing conservation program administration and implementation.
2. Assists CDSPCs in determining training needs and coordinating with the Regional Safety Manager, as necessary, to assess and evaluate established training adequacy and cost effective approaches toward meeting the needs of the Region.
. Assists CDSPCs in establishing contract services for noise monitoring at field locations with assistance as necessary from the Regional Safety Manager and/or Bureau Industrial Hygienist.
D. Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinators (CDSPCs).
1. Assist supervisors in providing employee of hearing conservation training as detailed within the scope of this chapter.
2. Assist local management in development of a local level hearing conservation program, inclusive of coordinating personnel training, medical monitoring (audiograms), and recordkeeping.
3. Coordinate noise surveys and monitoring with the appropriate Regional Safety Officer, Regional Safety Manager, and the Bureau Industrial Hygienist, as necessary.
4. Assist supervisors in evaluating hearing protection devices to ensure proper noise attenuation is achieved.
5. Evaluate the effectiveness and implementation of the organization hearing conservation program in conjunction with annual program self-evaluation/facility inspection.
E. Organizational Managers and Supervisors/Project Chiefs/Laboratory Supervisors.
1. Ensure a hearing conservation program consistent with this Chapter’s requirements is implemented for personnel working in environments where noise levels exceed 85 dBA. A template plan may be found in Appendix 19-1.
2. Perform a JHA to assess operations or equipment that may result in noise exposure in excess of 85 dBA.
3. Conduct monitoring when a JHA has identified potentially hazardous noise exposure. Supervisors shall arrange for noise monitoring with the assistance of the CDSPC, the Regional Safety Officer or Regional Safety Manager, as applicable. The Bureau Industrial Hygienist may also be consulted if needed.
4. Make every effort to reduce noise levels via engineering control(s) when noise monitoring establishes noise levels exceed 85 dBA for an 8-hour TWA or impact noise exceeds 140 dBA.
5. In the area or on equipment producing the noise, prominently post warning signs that indicate that there are excessive noise hazards and that hearing protection is required if noise levels cannot be reduced below 85 dBA.
6. Identify all affected personnel in areas and occupations where noise exposure cannot be reduced below an 8-hour TWA of 85 dBA for inclusion in a hearing conservation program.
7. Provide personnel who work in areas or operate equipment-producing noise in excess of 85 dBA a choice of appropriate hearing protection devices and ensure they are provided hearing protection training.
8. Provide training to affected employees initially and annually.
9. Maintain records of monitoring and training, as necessary, to verify the requirements of this chapter.
10. Audiograms are medical records and must be secured and treated as such. These records will be maintained for the duration of the affected employee's employment.
1. Wear hearing protection devices when using equipment or in areas determined to have noise in excess of 85 dBA.
2. Attend training on the effects of noise on hearing; the purpose of hearing protectors, the advantages, disadvantages, and attenuation of various types, how to wear the device selected, including proper fitting, proper cleaning, and recognizing when the device is no longer effective; and the purpose of audiometric testing, and an explanation of the test procedures.
3. Participate in medical surveillance to include audiometric testing if exposed to excessive levels of noise.
4. Report any hazardous conditions, exposures, or unusual circumstances to supervisor(s).
G. Contracting Officer’s Technical Representatives (COTRs). When the USGS arranges to have work performed by a contractor involving the potential for noise exposure above 85 dBA, the COTR shall monitor contractor compliance with OSHA hearing conservation program requirements.
Carol F. Aten
Associate Director for Administrative Policy and Services
Designated Agency Safety and Health Official