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(a) General. The employer shall administer a continuing, effective hearing conservation program, as described in this section, whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A-scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent. For purposes of the hearing conservation program, employee noise exposures shall be computed in accordance with Appendix A and Table A-1 and without regard to any attenuation provided by the use of personal protective equipment.
(1) When information indicates that any employee's exposure may equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels, the employer shall obtain measurements for employees who may be exposed at or above that level. Such determinations shall be made by December 1, 1982.
(2) The monitoring requirement shall be met by either area monitoring or personal monitoring that is representative of the employee's exposure.
(A) The sampling strategy shall be designed to identify employees for inclusion in the hearing conservation program and to enable the proper selection of hearing protectors.
(B) Where circumstances such as high worker mobility, significant variations in sound level, or a significant component of impulse noise make area monitoring generally inappropriate, the employer shall use representative personal sampling to comply with the monitoring requirements of this section unless the employer can show that area sampling produces equivalent results.
(C) All continuous, intermittent and impulsive sound levels from 80 dB to 130 dB shall be integrated into the computation.
(D) Instruments used to measure employee noise exposure shall be calibrated to ensure measurement accuracy.
(3) Monitoring shall be repeated whenever a change in production, process, equipment or controls increases noise exposures to the extent that:
(A) Additional employees may be exposed at or above the action level; or
(B) The attenuation provided by hearing protectors being used by employees may be rendered inadequate to meet the requirements of Section 5098(b).
(4) The employer shall provide affected employees or their representatives with an opportunity to observe any measurements of employee noise exposure which are conducted pursuant to this section.
(5) The employer shall notify each employee exposed at or above the action level of the results of the monitoring.
(c) Audiometric Testing Program.
(1) The employer shall establish and maintain an audiometric testing program as provided in this section by making audiometric testing available to all employees whose exposures equal or exceed the action level.
(2) The program shall be provided at no cost to employees.
(3) Audiometric tests shall be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician, or by a technician who is certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation, or who has satisfactorily demonstrated competence in administering audiometric examinations, obtaining valid audiograms, and properly using, maintaining and checking calibration and proper functioning of the audiometers being used. A technician who performs audiometric tests must be responsible to an audiologist, otolaryngologist or physician.
(4) All audiograms obtained pursuant to this section shall meet the requirements of Appendix B: Audiometric Measuring Instruments.
(5) The employer shall establish for each employee exposed at or above the action level a valid baseline audiogram against which subsequent audiograms can be compared.
(6) Testing to establish a baseline audiogram shall be preceded by at least 14 hours without exposure to workplace noise. This requirement may be met by wearing hearing protectors which will reduce the employee's exposure to a sound level of 80 dBA or below.
(7) The employer shall notify employees of the need to avoid high levels of non-occupational noise exposure during the 14-hour period immediately preceding the audiometric examination.
(8) Audiometric tests shall be made available to employees by June 1, 1983 or within 6 months of an employee's first exposure at or above the action level, except that where a mobile test van is used to conduct the audiometric test, the test shall be made available within one year of an employee's first exposure at or above the action level provided that all such employees are given an opportunity for testing.
NOTE: This requirement may be met by an audiogram available to the employer upon the effective date of this section provided the conditions under which the audiometric test was performed were the same as prescribed by this section.
(9) Where an employer chooses to have audiometric tests performed by a mobile test van in accordance with Section 5097(c)(8) and an employee's baseline audiogram has not been obtained within 6 months of the employee's first exposure at or above the action level, the employer shall make hearing protectors available to the employee in accordance with Section 5098 and require that the hearing protectors are worn by the employee until the baseline audiogram is obtained.
(10) At least annually after obtaining the baseline audiogram, the employer shall obtain a new audiogram for each employee exposed at or above the action level.
(d) Evaluation of Audiogram.
(1) Each employee's annual audiogram shall be compared to that employee's baseline audiogram to determine if the audiogram is valid and if a standard threshold shift, as defined in Section 5097(d)(8), has occurred. This comparison may be done by a technician.
(2) If the annual audiogram shows that an employee has suffered a standard threshold shift, the employer may obtain a retest within 30 days and consider the results of the retest as the annual audiogram.
(3) An audiologist, otolaryngologist or physician shall review problem audiograms and shall determine whether there is a need for further evaluation. The employer shall provide to the person performing this evaluation the following information:
(A) A copy of the requirements for hearing conservation as set forth in Sections 5097, 5098, 5099 and 5100.
(B) The baseline audiogram and most recent audiogram of the employee to be evaluated.
(C) Measurements of background sound pressure levels in the audiometric test room as required in Appendix C, Audiometric Test Rooms.
(D) Records of audiometric calibrations required by paragraph (f) of this section.
(4) If a comparison of the annual audiogram to the baseline audiogram indicates a standard threshold shift as defined by Section 5097(d)(8), the employee shall be informed of this fact, in writing, within 21 days of the determination.
(5) Unless a physician determines that the standard threshold shift is not work related or aggravated by occupational noise exposure, the employer shall ensure that the following steps are taken when a standard threshold shift occurs:
(A) An employee not using hearing protectors shall be fitted with hearing protectors, trained in their use and care, and required to use them; and
(B) An employee already using hearing protectors shall be refitted and retrained in the use of hearing protectors and provided with hearing protectors offering greater attenuation if necessary.
(C) Refer the employee for a clinical audiological evaluation or an otological examination, as appropriate, if additional testing is necessary or if the employer suspects that a medical pathology of the ear is caused or aggravated by the wearing of hearing protectors.
(D) Inform the employee of the need for an otological examination if a medical pathology of the ear which is unrelated to the use of hearing protectors is suspected.
(6) If subsequent audiometric testing of an employee whose exposure to noise is less than an 8-hour time-weighted average of 90 decibels indicates that a standard threshold shift is not persistent, the employer:
(A) Shall inform the employee of the new audiometric interpretation; and
(B) May discontinue the required use of hearing protectors for that employee.
(7) An annual audiogram may be substituted for the baseline audiogram when in the judgment of the audiologist, otolaryngologist or physician who is evaluating the audiogram:
(A) The standard threshold shift revealed by the audiogram is persistent; or
(B) The hearing threshold shown in the annual audiogram indicates significant improvement over the baseline audiogram.
(8) As used in this section, a standard threshold shift is a change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10 dB or more at 2000, 3000 and 4000 Hz in either ear.
(9) In determining whether a standard threshold shift has occurred, allowance may be made for the contribution of aging (presbycusis) to the change in hearing level by correcting the annual audiogram according to the procedure described in Appendix F: Determination and Application of Age Correction to Audiograms.
(e) Audiometric Test Requirements.
(1) Audiometric tests shall be pure tone, air conduction, hearing threshold examinations, with test frequencies including as a minimum 500, 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 6000 Hz. Tests at each frequency shall be taken separately for each ear.
(2) Audiometric tests shall be conducted with audiometers (including microprocessor audiometers) that meet the specifications of, and are maintained and used in accordance with, ANSI S3.6-1969.
(3) Pulsed-tone and self-recording audiometers, if used, shall meet the requirements specified in Appendix B, Audiometric Measuring Instruments.
(4) Audiometric examinations shall be administered in a room meeting the requirements listed in Appendix C, Audiometric Test Rooms.
(f) Audiometer Calibration.
(1) The functional operation of the audiometer shall be checked before each day's use by testing a person with known, stable hearing thresholds, and by listening to the audiometer's output to make sure that the output is free from distorted or unwanted sounds. Deviations of 10 dB or greater shall require an acoustic calibration.
(2) Audiometer calibration shall be checked acoustically at least annually in accordance with Appendix D, Acoustic Calibration of Audiometers. Test frequencies below 500 Hz and above 6000 Hz may be omitted from this check. Deviations of 15 dB or greater necessitate an exhaustive calibration.
(3) An exhaustive calibration shall be performed at least every two years in accordance with Sections 4.1.2, 4.1.3, 126.96.36.199, 4.2, 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 4.4.3, and 4.5 of ANSI S3.6-1969. Test frequencies below 500 Hz and above 6000 Hz may be omitted from this calibration.
NOTE: Authority and reference cited: Section 142.3, Labor Code.
1. Amendment filed 10-3-83; effective thirtieth day thereafter (Register 83, No. 41).