Safe Environments were commissioned by a Council in the Greater Western Sydney region to undertake audiometric testing of their employees. The council employs over 150 grounds and road maintenance staff as well as other occupations within the council that are exposed to significant levels of noise. The Council in Western Sydney had initially undertaken a baseline audiometric test and it was time to start the audiometric monitoring program to detect any significant changes in the council workers.
Many councils within NSW have a hearing conservation program in which a major aspect includes audiometric testing. AS 1269.0 Occupational Noise Management outlines an overarching plan to identify, assess and control risks to reduce the likelihood of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). What many workers fail to understand is that expose to noise and the consequential hearing loss can never be recovered, even hearing aids can’t bring your hearing back from industrial deafness! The first step is to conduct a preliminary noise survey to assess the likely noise levels to determine compliance with the National Exposure Standards.
Workplace Audiometric Testing Regulations
Councils within Sydney are required to comply with the NSW WHS ACT 2011 and Regulation 2011, to manage risks associated with noise in the workplace. If council workers are likely to be exposed to noise levels greater than the exposure standard, o ruse hearing protection to ensure they aren’t exposed greater than the expose standard for noise, then the workers are required to undertake audiometric testing. Audiometric testing is required by the NSW WHS Act to be undertaken at least every two years.
Audiometric testing on the council workers will assist in determining whether controls are effective in minimising hearing loss. The audiometric testing is a screening test to compare how the workers hearing may change over time. Our hearing levels will change due to a variety of reasons, however any significant changes in audiometric testing of employees should be treated as a near miss incident.
Identifying Hearing Threshold Shifts
The changes in hearing levels identified during audiometric assessments are known as threshold shifts. These threshold shifts may either be temporary or permanent. A Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) is characteristic of someone who has been exposed to high levels of noise which have not been controlled. It’s the change in hearing that you might expect after going to a loud concern, where the next day you can be slightly hard of hearing. This will recover over time, however if you are exposed on a regular basis then this may become permanent.
The Temporary Threshold Shift is what we prefer to identify so that we can take action, rather than finding out some 10 to 20 years later that the hearing loss may be permanent. If you or your workforce have regular audiometric testing conducted at least every two years, then this can help to check that the hearing protection used is effectively preventing hearing loss.
How Safe Environments can help businesses and councils through Sydney and NSW
Safe Environments based in Western Sydney can assist councils and business alike to develop and implement a noise conservation program along with noise and audiometric testing to prevent industrial deafness in the workforce.