The Ontario Ministry of Labour is reminding all employers that a new noise regulation that was approved last December, will take effect on July 1, 2016. The new regulation, which falls under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act as Ont. Reg. 381/15, has been designed to offer greater protection from hearing loss for more workers in more industries.
According to the Ministry of Labour, noise-induced hearing loss is “a leading cause of occupational disease for Ontario workers.” The new regulation applies to many more types of workplaces than the regulations they replace. In addition to industrial establishments, mines, and manufacturing plants, the new rules provide for specific noise protection requirements to many other workplaces, especially construction sites.
The new rules limit worker exposure to noise to a maximum average time-weighted exposure limit of 85 decibels for each eight-hour shift. They also require employers to either implement new measures or to enhance existing measures with a goal of reducing workers’ exposure to noise. Employers will also have to consider engineering controls to reduce noise at its source or along the path of transmission wherever such a thing is possible, and when it’s not possible, they will have to schedule work activities to limit exposure. In addition, they’ll be required to provide personal hearing protection devices when necessary.
The Ministry’s current guidelines instruct employers with regard to how they can make a basic assessment of noise level exposure by listening to other’s speak. If someone has to shout at someone one metre away in order to be heard, it is likely the noise level is in excess of 85 decibels. However, even if workers are exposed to noise levels that are slightly below that level, employers should be aware that some noise control measures may still be required since maximum exposure levels are based on a worker’s cumulative exposure to noise throughout the work day.
Since the new regulations take effect July 1, it’s probably a good time for Ontario employers to consider having a notice level assessment done, to ensure that each workplace is in compliance with the new regulations.