Workers Health & Safety Centre

New Ontario noise regulation to extend coverage for all workers

A new noise regulation covering all provincially-regulated Ontario workers will come into force July 1, 2016.
Passed in December 2015, this regulation (O. Reg. 381/15) replaces the noise protection requirements set out in 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).
It will also extend noise protection requirements to all Ontario workplaces under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that are not currently covered. These new workplaces include:
  • Construction projects,
  • Health care facilities,
  • Schools,
  • Farming operations,
  • Fire services,
  • Police services, and
  • Amusement parks.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a leading cause of occupational disease for Ontario workers. According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board work-related illness claims including the number of claims resulting from occupational NIHL have continued to increase overall in the last 10 years.
The new regulation is in keeping with changes proposed by the MOL in 2014. A 60-day public consultation was held from October 28 to December 29, 2014.
The new noise regulation retains the following requirements:

  • Prescribes, for workers exposed to noise, a maximum time-weighted exposure limit of 85 decibels over an eight-hour work shift; and
  • Requires employers to put in place measures to reduce workers’ exposures based on a “hierarchy of controls” which could include engineering controls, work practices, and the use of personal protective equipment in the form of hearing protection devices.

It is important to note however, according to the Canadian Hearing Society and many others, “in no way should 85dBA be understood to be a safe level for unprotected exposure.” In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates prolonged exposure to noise at 100dB will result in 56 out of 100 workers suffering hearing loss. At 90dB, 29 workers of 100 will suffer hearing loss. At 85dB, 15 of 100 workers will suffer. Even at 80dB, three of 100 may sustain hearing loss. Thus efforts to reduce noise levels to less harmful levels using a hierarchy of controls are essential.
In addition to the Act’s general employer duty to provide safe use instruction, when hearing protection is provided, the new regulation also sets out a specific requirement for employers to provide workers with “adequate training and instruction to the worker in the care and use of the device, including its limitations, proper fitting, inspection and maintenance and, if applicable, the cleaning and disinfection of the device.”
Want to read new Noise Regulation (O. Reg. 381/15)?
Want more information on the hazards of noise?
WHSC offers a wide range of training programs to help workplace parties understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to noise, and other workplace hazards.
To learn more:
Call:     1-888-869-7950