Workers Health & Safety Centre

MOL proposes an expansion of noise protection to all workers

MOL proposes an expansion of noise protection to all workers
Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) is seeking input on its proposal to extend noise protection laws to all Ontario workers.   
 
Current minimum mandatory noise protections are afforded to workers in workplaces governed by the regulations for Industrial Establishments (Section 139 of Regulation 851), Mines and Mining Plants (Section 293.1 of Regulation 854) and Oil and Gas-Offshore (Section 41 of Regulation 855).
 
According to the MOL, this proposal would expand coverage to all workers including those in health care facilities, schools, farming operations, fire and police services and amusement parks. The MOL has issued a separate, but similar, proposal for coverage in the construction sector (in addition to other amendments to the Construction Regulation).
 
The harmonizing of noise protection for workers in all sectors would see employers governed by the Occupational Health & Safety Act responsible for: 
  • ensuring no worker is exposed to an eight-hour time-weighted average exposure exceeding 85 dBA,
  • introducing engineering controls and work practices reasonably necessary to protect workers from exposure, and
  • only using ppe as a last resort under specific conditions.

Exposure to noise can impact workers several ways. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the most common occupational diseases suffered by workers. According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB), NIHL claims have been steadily increasing for 10 years. And many more suffer in silence often failing to recognize or report the condition.
 
Once hearing is lost it cannot be restored. And the impact on quality of life at work and away from work for those with hearing loss can be traumatic. Some experience a drop in self-esteem and confidence because of their impaired ability to communicate with others. Some choose to withdrawal socially. This can lead to mental injuries including depression. 
 
Noise was the focus of a workshop at a recent conference sponsored by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW). The data presented questioned the safety of even the minimum protection afforded by Ontario health and safety law. According to OHCOW, years of exposure above 80-85 dBA will lead to a percentage of workers with a hearing disability (legally deaf).
 
For our part, the WHSC offers a noise prevention training program  (see under onsite courses) designed to give all workplace parties essential understanding of noise hazards in the workplace and the many ways noise can be properly addressed in the workplace. A WHSC noise hazard bulletin is also available. It summarizes related health impacts, noise prevention requirements and noise elimination and control strategies.

To learn more about WHSC noise training:
Call:    1-888-869-7950
Visit:   www.whsc.on.ca
Email: contactus@whsc.on.ca
 
The MOL noise protection consultation is currently underway and will run until December 29, 2014.
 
Want to know more about the MOL’s Noise Protection Consultation?

Want additional resources from OHCOW?
Workshop Presentation: Noise—Its Effects and Methods to Reduce Exposure
OHCOW’s online noise assessment calculator