Audiometric testing: what are the requirements?

Audiometric testing: what are the requirements?

By Gaby Grammeno on 20 February 2018 What are the OHS requirements for audiometric testing?

This question was recently sent to our Ask an Expert service.

Q We operate a large manufacturing business and some of our employees has concerned about the noise levels from machinery. Our workers are provided with ear muffs but we are wondering what the OHS requirements are regarding audiometric testing?  

A In the Commonwealth jurisdiction, and in all states and territories except Victoria and Western Australia, an employer (or other person conducting a business or undertaking – PCBU) must manage the risk of noise-induced hearing loss by following the hierarchy of risk control. They must ensure that workers are not exposed to noise levels above the noise exposure standard.

The noise exposure standard is a level equivalent to eight hours of exposure to a sound pressure level of noise at 85 decibels (on the A scale). There is a separate peak noise limit of 140 decibels on the C scale.

Measurement of a worker’s noise exposure should only be undertaken by a specially trained professional.

If a worker’s noise exposure cannot be brought below the noise exposure standard by means of control strategies further up the hierarchy of risk control, a PCBU may attempt to reduce the worker’s noise exposure by requiring the worker to use personal hearing protectors (ear muffs or ear plugs).

Except in Queensland (where this requirement has been repealed), and in New South Wales (where an exemption to this requirement has been extended to 31 December 2018), a PCBU that often requires a worker to use personal hearing protectors must provide audiometric testing for the worker:
  • within three months after the employee commences the work in relation to which the hearing protectors are required, and
  • in any event, at least every two years.
In Victoria, employers must provide hearing protectors to workers if they have tried, as far as is reasonably practicable, but not succeeded in reducing workers’ noise exposure to a level below the noise exposure standard by eliminating the noise, substituting quieter equipment or processes, engineering the noise out or using administrative controls.

If a Victorian employer is required to provide hearing protectors to an employee, the employer must provide for audiometric testing for that employee:
  •  within three months after the employee commences the work in relation to which the hearing protectors are required, and
  •  at any time when reasonably requested to do so by the health and safety representative of the designated work group to which the worker belongs, and
  • at least every two years.
In Western Australia, employers are obliged to ensure workers are not exposed to levels of noise above the noise exposure standard, but the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 do not contain any requirement for audiometric testing.

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