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10 Hearing Conservation Noise Monitoring FAQs

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: October 3, 2013

One of the most burdensome OSHA standards (especially for employers in the manufacturing sector) is the Occupational Noise Exposure standard (Sec. 1910.95) which requires you to develop a hearing conservation program to protect workers from potentially dangerous sound levels; and performing noise monitoring is one of the toughest parts of implementing a hearing conservation program. Here are 10 FAQs to help you comply with monitoring requirements.

Q1. When Is Noise Monitoring Required?

A: You must implement a written hearing conservation program that includes monitoring when workers are exposed to noise at levels that “may be” equal or above the so-called “action level,” i.e., •An 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A scale (slow response); or •An equivalent noise dose of 50%.

Q2. Does PPE Count in the Calculation?

A: No. You must calculate the exposure level assuming workers are not using PPE. In other words, even though hearing protection reduces the level of sound workers experience, you can’t factor these PPE reductions of sound levels into your calculation.

Q3. How Do You Calculate TWA Sound Levels in Decibels?

A: According to Appendix A of the Standard, you calculate the 8-hour TWA sound level, in decibels, from the dose (D), in percent, using the formula:

TWA = 16.61 log(10) (D/100) + 90

Thus, an 8-hour work shift with the noise level constant throughout is equal to the measured sound level. Table A-1 of Appendix A lists specific 8-hour TWA decibel totals related to particular noise percentage doses. So if you know the dose, you can use the Table to make the conversion to decibels.

Q4. How Do You Count Noise Doses?

A: You can also use Table A-1 of Appendix A to make the opposite conversion—TWA decibels to noise dose. So if you know the decibels, you can use the Table to determine dose.

Q5. Must Decibels Actually Exceed the “Action Level”?

A: No. Employers must develop and implement a monitoring program when noise exposure may equal or exceed an 8-hour TWA of 85 decibels. Result: Monitoring may be required even if you’re below the “action level” if there’s reason to believe that you’re close or that actual sound levels might be higher than in test conditions.

Q6. Which Monitoring Method Must You Use?

A: You can choose to use either personal or area monitoring based on which method works best at your workplace. Exception: You must representative personal sampling in circumstances that aren’t suited for area monitoring, e.g., where there’s high worker mobility, significant variations in sound level or a significant component of impulse noise—unless you can show that area sampling produces equivalent results.

Q7: What Sound Levels Must You Include in Noise Measurements?

A: You must integrate all continuous, intermittent and impulsive sound levels from 80 decibels to 130 decibels into your noise measurements.

Q8. What Requirements Apply to Monitoring Instruments?

A: The instruments you use to measure workers’ noise exposure must be calibrated to ensure accuracy.

Q9. Is Monitoring Once OK or Must Monitoring Be Repeated?

A: You must repeat monitoring whenever a change in production, process, equipment or controls increases noise exposures such that:

•Additional workers may be exposed at or above the action level; or

•The attenuation—or reduction—of sound provided by the hearing protectors workers are using may be rendered inadequate to meet the requirements for PPE in the standard.

Q10. What Notice Must You Give Workers?

A: You must notify each worker exposed at or above an 8-hour TWA of 85 decibels of the results of the monitoring. You must also give affected workers or their representatives a chance to observe any noise measurements conducted under the standard.


December 1st, 2013 Training Requirements for the Revised Hazard Communication Standard

OSHA revised its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and published it in the Federal Register in March 2012 (77 FR 17574). Two significant changes contained in the revised standard require the use of new labeling elements and a standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formerly known as, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). The new label elements and SDS requirements will improve worker understanding of the hazards associated with the chemicals in their workplace. To help companies comply with the revised standard, OSHA is phasing in the specific requirements over several years (December 1, 2013 to June 1, 2016).

See entire article here.

Whales record major life events in their earwax

Who needs a diary when you’ve got whale earwax? Hormone peaks, ocean pollutants, stress levels – it’s all there.

The plugs, which can weigh 250 grams and be 25 centimetres long, reflect annual migration patterns. During a blue whale’s six-month feeding season, earwax is light-coloured, filled with fat from its rich diet. As it fasts during migration, a darker layer forms. These layers allow scientists to age whales when they’re found dead.

Now, for the first time researchers have used the earwax to study a whale’s exposure to ocean contaminants from birth to death. “This has opened the floodgates for doing some great analysis,” says Sascha Usenko of Baylor University, Waco, Texas. “Now we can look at the impact of ocean contaminants on these organisms historically, which has always been very hard to address.”

Usenko and Stephen Trumble, also at Baylor University, shaved away at a plug from a 12-year-old male blue whale that was killed in a 2007 boating accident off the coast of California. The layers contained varying concentrations of DDT and flame-retardants. Exposure was highest during its first year, probably while the whale was nursing.

The plug also contained traces of hormones, which are broken down by the body and don’t leave records elsewhere. Testosterone levels peaked at 10 years, marking the beginning of sexual maturity, which can be difficult to determine but is important for conservation efforts. And levels of the stress hormone cortisol increased over the whale’s life, possibly because finding food, migrating and mating all got harder.

Usenko says the earwax method means we can look at how exposure to chemicals in the environment alters a whale’s stress levels, and how exposure today is different from exposure say, 50 years ago.

Journal reference here.

New Policy for NIOSH/PFT Refresher Students

Effective immediately, all NIOSH/PFT refresher students must bring their current NIOSH approved Spirometry course certificates to the refresher course.

New Program Change: 7-Month Grace Period for Certificates

NIOSH-Approved Spirometry course certificates currently expire 5 years after the course is completed.  To renew their official NIOSH course certificates, technicians should complete a NIOSH-Approved Spirometry Refresher course before their current course certificate expires.

However, since NIOSH-Approved Spirometry Refresher Courses may not always be available at the specific time needed, NIOSH is instituting a 7-month grace period to extend the window of time for completing the needed NIOSH-Approved Refresher training.

For example, if the current certificate was awarded on April 1, 2008, then the technician may take a NIOSH-Approved Spirometry Refresher Course within 5 years and 7 months of that date, i.e., until November 1, 2013.

See here for our list of course dates for the remainder of 2013 and the full 2014 schedule.


Come see us at these trade shows!

Workplace Integra will be at the following trade shows for the remainder of 2013:

STAR Conference September 18-20  Greensboro, NC

2013 NC SHIRM September 30-October 2  Winston-Salem, NC

Virginia Occupational Safety & Health Conference October 7-11  Hampton, VA

Western Carolina Conference  November 4-6  Asheville, NC

NC AOHN – Fall Conference November 6-8  Charlotte, NC

Click here for our complete listing of trade shows.

National Safety Council Congress & Expo, Chicago 2013

On September 28- October 4, 2013, The 2013 National Safety Council Congress & Expo will take place at the McCormick Place (West Building), Chicago IL.

The NSC Congress & Expo is the world’s largest annual “must attend” event for safety, health and environmental professionals. For more than 100 years, professionals have turned to this event for industry-leading technology, education, networking opportunities and the tried and true products and services needed to stay at the forefront and remain competitive within the industry.   In 2010, NSC introduced the Journey to Safety Excellence philosophy, which can help you and your company answer the following questions regarding its current safety program:

• Where are you now – and where do you want to be?

• How will you move forward?

• How do you manage your improvement and measure your progress?

Congress is designed to build awareness of the tools available to you and your organization as you continue down the path to safety excellence.

Sarah Ervin, with Workplace INTEGRA, Inc. will be speaking on Fit Testing For Hearing Protection.  Sarah will be joined by a number of additional experts for the Monday 9/30 at 4 PM presentation in room 176B.

Visit this page for more information.

Workplace INTEGRA Adds Spiro Refresher Course

NIOSH Spirometry Refresher Training-  Workplace INTEGRA, in association with OccuHealth Training, LLC, is pleased to offer NIOSH-approved Spirometry Courses held at the Workplace INTEGRA corporate office in Greensboro, NC.

We have just added a new course date for 2013; November 15, 2013.  To sign up for this NIOSH Approved Spirometry Refresher Course click here.

Course description and who should attend.

Alternately, you can e mail or call us with questions 888-974-0001


Are you ready to go Mobile?

Workplace INTEGRA, Inc can be a resource for more than software, training, and consulting services.  Workplace INTEGRA has 4 person Mobile testing units to provide hearing tests for:

Companies starting a hearing conservation program who have more than 50 people to test

Annually for companies needing to meet their on-going hearing conservation program requirements

Existing Workplace Applications software clients who have fallen behind in testing

Mobile hearing tests are conducted by our experienced CAOHC certified audiometric technicians under the supervision of certified and licensed Occupational Audiologists—true experts in hearing conservation. Our custom-built climate controlled vans are clean, quiet and very high tech!

Some of the highlights of Workplace Integra’s mobile testing include:

  • Background noise levels are continuously monitored and testing is paused when excessive noise is present.
  • A thorough history is reviewed to identify causes of hearing loss.
  • 8000 Hz is tested to assist in work-relatedness determination.
  • Test instructions presented under headphones are available in multiple languages.
  • State-of-the-art microprocessor audiometers are used to promote consistency and accuracy.
  • OSHA/MSHA-compliant Hearing Test Notification forms are printed immediately following each test.
  • Easy-to-read management reports are generated to identify:
  • Standard Threshold Shifts (STS)
  • Possible OSHA 300 Log Recordables
  • Summary Statistics
  • Employees Tested and Employees Not Tested
  • All persons with an STS/Possible Recordable are automatically retested.
  • Audiometer calibration checks and sound booth background noise levels are documented.
  • Audiologist Review Reports arrive electronically usually within two business days
  • Otoscopic examinations are conducted prior to testing.
  • Your company historical hearing test records (electronic or paper if available) are imported into our state of the art system, Workplace Applications software.  For clients starting a hearing conservation program, we import a demographic listing of current employees.

Our objective is to provide a quality test at a fair price.  The quote you receive is the amount invoiced after the work is complete.  We offer the following service offerings: Hearing Test Only, Test and Employee Notification, or Test, Notify and Education.

Description of Services

Geographical coverage

To receive a free no obligation quote, click here:

Or you can call: 888 WPI-0001 or visit

Asbestos: Toxic Fibers that Can Lead to Cancer

Source: Mesothelioma Center at

When discussing workplace health concerns, it’s impossible to leave asbestos out of the conversation. While occupational health experts acknowledge it as a human carcinogen, more than 120 million people worldwide still come into contact with the fibers at their work sites.

In the past, thousands of manufacturers added the fibers to their commercial and industrial products. Because asbestos was inexpensive, easy to acquire and highly durable, it was used in everything from insulation to roofing products.

Asbestos industry workers who made these products from raw materials handled the loose fibers every day, and workplace exposure was inevitable. But employees who used asbestos products in their finished form also faced occupational health hazards. More than 75 occupational groups – many of them in the blue-collar sector – have used the fibers in some way.

Occupations with a strong exposure history include:

• Auto mechanics

• Factory workers

• Boiler room workers

• Power plant workers

• Blacksmiths

• Insulators

Workers in jobs like these often handled asbestos on a daily basis. Once they inhaled or ingested the fibers, their risk for illnesses like mesothelioma of the peritoneum and lung cancer drastically increased. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related illnesses.

Current Asbestos Hazards in the Workplace

While we expect to see these rates decrease as occupational health measures increase, workplace exposure hazards still exist. Asbestos products are more tightly regulated than they were in the past, but they’re not officially banned in the United States.

Old asbestos products that have been in place for the last 20 to 30 years pose the majority of workplace exposure threats. Construction, demolition and home renovation workers can encounter the fibers as they pull out and replace old asbestos-containing materials. Firefighters face a similar risk as they respond to calls in older buildings; the flames can damage asbestos products to the point that the fibers enter the air.

To avoid inhaling airborne asbestos, it’s important for workers to wear appropriate respiratory protection when they work in potentially contaminated areas. Full-face respirators and additional body coverings are essential in keeping the microscopic fibers out of the body.

Workers must also keep their contaminated clothing away from their off-duty clothes. It’s crucial to wash the clothes at work, in a specially designated machine, to help avoid bringing the carcinogenic fibers away from the jobsite.

Lastly – but certainly not least – workers should never accept jobs that require them to handle asbestos if they don’t hold an up-to-date asbestos certification. State-accredited programs provide essential guidance in identifying, handling and properly disposing of asbestos materials that pose occupational health threats.

For information on Asbestos and Mesothelioma life expectancy please visit

Faith Franz writes for The Mesothelioma Center at She encourages patients to consider the benefits of alternative medicine.