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Course 751 - Hearing Conservation Program Management

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Hearing Conservation Program Benefits

Introduction

When a company has an effective hearing conservation program, everyone wins–the employers, the employees, and the safety and health professionals who implement the program. This course is not about minimal criteria that meet only the letter of the law. It is concerned with programs that are effective as well as efficient: those optimizing program elements that succeed in preventing hearing loss in a practical and cost-effective manner.

The Costs

In Washington State, workers' compensation disability settlements for hearing-related conditions cost $4.8 million in 1991 (not including medical costs). When applied to the national workforce, occupational hearing loss costs an estimated $242.4 million per year in disability alone.

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An effective hearing conservation program will help your organization realize savings.

This figure does not include medical costs or personal costs which can include approximately $1500 for a hearing aid and around $300 per year for batteries. Moreover, workers' compensation data is an underestimate of the true frequency of occupational illness, representing only the tip of the iceberg.

In British Columbia, in a five-year period from 1994 to 1998, the workers' compensation board paid $18 million in permanent disability awards to 3,207 workers suffering hearing loss. An additional $36 million was paid out for hearing aids.

Through their hearing conservation program, the U.S. Army saved $504.3 million by reducing hearing loss among combat arms personnel between 1974 and 1994. The Department of Veterans Affairs saved $220.8 million and the Army an additional $149 million by reducing civilian hearing loss between 1987 and 1997.

Employer Benefits

A good hearing conservation program is good business. It promotes good labor relations because employees know that management is concerned, and this type of concern may translate to improved productivity and product quality. Indeed, noise itself can have an adverse effect on productivity. For complex jobs and those requiring concentration, studies show that greater efficiency is linked to lower noise levels. Also, the ease and accuracy of communication is improved as noise levels are lowered. These benefits should prove to be cost-effective for management. Additionally, the prevention of hearing loss leads to the preservation of valuable employee resources.

Studies of noisy companies that have implemented hearing loss prevention programs show reductions in accident rates, illnesses, and lost time.

Versatility, adaptability, and promotability of employees are likely to be maintained when employees retain good hearing. Morale may also benefit, which should lead to greater employee satisfaction and retention. Of course, employers who take the appropriate preventive action now will greatly reduce the risk of future claims. As with other effective health and safety measures, hearing conservation programs should also extend beyond the workplace.

The company that encourages employees to take their earplugs home to wear during woodworking, target practice, or other noisy off-duty activities is reducing the possibility of illegitimate work related claims, as well as educating the employees to the need for hearing loss prevention in recreational settings.

Finally, the company that places a high value on safety and health maintenance should evaluate the performance of managers responsible for hearing conservation programs and reward those whose programs succeed in preventing hearing loss. An effective hearing conservation program costs money to implement, but the necessary investment will produce a beneficial return.

Employee Benefits

The hearing conservation program's most obvious benefit to employees is that it saves their hearing and ability to communicate. Because occupational hearing loss creeps up slowly, many individuals are unaware of their impairment until it is too late. Moreover, occupational hearing loss represents permanent damage, i.e., it cannot be restored through medical/surgical treatment. A good hearing conservation program, however, can identify minor changes in hearing, and prevent deterioration to the point where it is permanent. Employees who have labored for 35 or 40 years should be able to enjoy their retirement; they should be able to socialize with family and friends, and listen to music and the sounds of nature.

Hearing loss due to noise appears during the first five to ten years of exposure, so young workers are at most risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

Preventing hearing loss benefits employees all through life, not just in retirement, since the ability to communicate is critical in all of our interpersonal relationships. When good hearing is a prerequisite for a job, an effective hearing conservation program will enable employees to sustain their hearing ability and thus continue to qualify for jobs (perhaps higher level) that have such requirements.

Employee Benefits (Continued...)

happy employee
An effective hearing conservation program often helps employees feel better, less stressed, and more productive.

Another benefit reported by employees in companies with effective hearing conservation programs is that they generally feel better; less tired and irritable. They sometimes report that they sleep better at night, and they are no longer bothered by temporary reductions in hearing ability at the end of the day, or by the tinnitus (ringing in the ears) that often accompanies the development of noise-induced hearing loss.

There is also evidence that long-term noise exposure may contribute to stress-related disease, especially cardiovascular disease. By reducing noise, the chances of other health impairments are consequently controlled and reduced. Noise reduction and maintenance of hearing sensitivity can benefit safety because employees are better able to communicate, and to hear alarms and warning shouts. Good hearing is essential for more subtle warning signals, such as a malfunctioning machine or the sounds of "roof-talk" in underground mines.

In summary, a good hearing conservation program is consistent with good health and good business. At a minimum, employees benefit with good hearing. Reductions in noise exposure may also result in less fatigue and irritation, and possibly fewer stress-related health complaints. The company benefits from reduced worker compensation payments and medical expenses, and a reduced likelihood of an OSHA citation for hearing conservation violations. Reduced noise exposures also can be associated with improved employee morale, and, in some cases, higher production efficiency.

That concludes module five :-) Keep up the good work.

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. For complex jobs and those requiring concentration, studies show that greater efficiency is linked to _____.

2. Who is more at risk of developing hearing loss?

3. Studies of noisy companies that have implemented hearing conservation programs show reductions in _____.

4. Many individuals are unaware of their hearing impairment until it is too late.

5. How can noise reduction and the maintenance of hearing sensitivity benefit the safety of employees?


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.