Workers Health & Safety Centre

Version 4.0 of WHSC Noise Module turns up the volume on noise hazards

Version 4.0 of WHSC Noise Module turns up the volume on noise hazards
This long-standing WHSC module benefits from an extensive overhaul – emphasis on extensive.  Among the many changes and additions are a host of practical tools and information to help participants achieve real-world solutions to workplace noise hazards.
As an instructor, you will want to ensure you thoroughly review Noise Version 4.0, participant and instructor manuals, well in advance of delivering the program.

Participant Manual

Overall changes to the participants’ manual reflect current legislation, clarify and highlight key points and expand upon critical information. The manual now includes sidebars to emphasize main points and to provide concrete examples. Headings and table of contents are more descriptive; and the term “recent changes” relating to the Regulation for Industrial Establishments is deleted since these changes are no longer recent.
The Health Effects section now features information on recognizing signs of hearing loss. Potential health effects for the unborn fetus of exposed workers are also added.
The order in which information is presented in the legislation section has changed.  The Legislation section now begins with an overview explaining the main provisions of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Section 139. This section sets out specific requirements for noise in the workplace and establishes the exposure limit of 85dBA, Lex,8.  A new sidebar provides details about the noise exposure limit.  Reference to a ceiling limit was omitted.
The overview makes a distinction between steady sound levels and varying sound levels and explains how to determine exposure levels for both. For example, with varying levels, the program directs participants to use the formula in the regulation or the OHCOW noise calculator; whereas with steady sound levels they are directed to the table of equivalent noise exposures found in the Ministry’s guideline. 
Following the overview, there is information about the duties of the employer, worker and joint health and safety committee (JHSC). The section on committees stresses the importance of the JHSC making the most protective recommendations possible. Reorganization of the legislation section also helps remove repetition found in the older version. 
Under Identifying and Assessing Noise Hazards, is a section entitled, “First Steps Toward Identifying Noise Hazards.” It includes a list of indications that noise might be too loud and an easy way to help determine whether noise likely exceeds 85dBA.
A new section explains the different reasons for measuring sound levels.
The section on noise surveys adds noise maps. The program explains a noise survey is a way of measuring noise levels in a work area, in order to determine whether further testing is needed to establish workers’ actual exposure levels.
The explanation of noise assessment instruments adds information about situations for which each instrument is best suited. A new sidebar includes things to consider when measuring noise. For example, it suggests including workers on non-standard shifts and the importance of noting whether operating conditions are typical.
Additional details to the descriptions of noise measurement equipment include a description of the difference between a standard and an intergraded sound level meter, plus the advantages of their use.
The chart on noise measurement equipment from the former resource sheet number three, now appears in the text. 
The Controlling Noise Hazards section now has a sidebar of success stories describing the multiple benefits of noise controls. Discussion of control measures at the source includes buy-quiet purchasing policies. Further, the PPE section contains information on de-rating systems for hearing protectors.
There is now more information on various types of hearing protectors, including a table drawing comparisons between them. A new sidebar explains the Regulation for Industrial Establishment’s limitation on the use of PPE.
It also has a new section entitled “Is Noise Control Too Difficult, Expensive or Not Worth the Effort?” that explains the reasons why more progress is not being made in hearing loss prevention.  It describes additional benefits of noise controls.
The Glossary section now contains main terms and clarifies definitions where necessary.
Resource sheets for the program have also undergone additions and changes. They include:
  • information on noise measurement equipment from the MOL Guideline;
  • a summary of the three methods of selecting hearing protectors, as provided by the CSA standard on hearing protection; and
  • the important role JHSCs play in noise abatement plans.

Where there were two worksheets in the previous version, this version has one on noise controls. It requires participants working in groups to devise control strategies for a noise hazard from one of their workplaces and explain which strategy is most protective.

Instructor Manual

As with the participant’s manual, changes to the instructor’s manual are extensive. Instructors will need to thoroughly review the detailed session plan (DSPs) before delivery. In other words, this new version of the noise module is not the old version with a few edits – it is completely revised.  The following list of changes is by no means a replacement for the DSPs, rather it should give you some idea of the scope of change.
  • The video Sneaking up on You is removed.  Now a new YouTube clip explains how the ear works.
  • Core elements standard to all Certification Part II modules – the introduction and the principles of control – are included now.
  • Participants begin by defining noise and brainstorming noise sources in their workplace.
  • They will use the list of noise sources when completing the worksheet on controls later in the program.
  • The program introduces major terms near the beginning and the significance of the 3dB rule – doubling or halving of noise levels – is highlighted.
  • The instructor uses PowerPoint slides to explain how noise damages health, signs of hearing loss and how it affects workers.
  • The instructor also uses slides to explain requirements of the Industrial Regulation and to show the OHCOW calculator.
  • Participants make a list of indicators that noise levels may be too high in their workplace and provide reasons for measuring sound levels.
  • With slides, the instructor explains the use of surveys, maps, measuring equipment and the role of the JHSC in pressing for the lowest possible levels.
  • As with the previous version, the DSP provides for demonstration of a noise level meter – if time allows.
  • Participants brainstorm different ways of controlling noise and categorize them according to whether they are controls at the source, along the path or at the worker. They then explain why hearing protectors are a last resort.
  • The instructor summarizes by reviewing slides with pictures of various control types.
  • In buzz groups, participants select an example of a noise hazard from a participant’s workplace, develop control methods for the hazard and explain which methods are most protective.
  • Using slides, the instructor explains the hearing protector program, barriers to noise control and the components of a noise abatement plan.