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Douglas County Safety
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Noise Exposure and Hearing Conservation Policy




Douglas County has adopted its Noise and Hearing Conservation Policy and Procedures to protect

its work force from hearing loss and ensure compliance with the OSHA Noise regulations.  The regulations require that each employer implement a hearing conservation program if employees noise exposure levels exceed 85 decibels for an average of 8 hours.





OAR 437 Division 2 Subdivision >G=.   "Occupational noise exposure" 1910.95 and 

OAR 437 Division 2 Subdivision 'I'.    





Permissible Noise Exposure:  There are actually two exposure levels that if exceeded required        specific compliance activities.


A    Permissible Noise Exposure: eight hour time-weighted average level

                  of 90 decibels on the A scale or a dose of 100%.


B    Action Level is an eight hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels on the A scale or a dose of



Representative Noise Exposure: Measurements of an employee=s noise       

 dose or 8 hour time-weighted average sound level that the employers deem to be

 representative of the exposures of other employees in the workplace.


Sound measurements as taken by:


A    Noise dosimeter: An instrument that integrates a function of sound  pressure over a period of

       time in such a manner that it directly indicate a noise dose.  


            B    Sound level meter: An instrument for the measurement of sound level.


Time-weighted average sound level: That sound level, which if constant over an 8-hour exposure,

 would result in the same noise dose as is measured.






1.   Management is responsible to see that noise controls are implemented and maintained and that all employees at noise exposures in excess of 85 dBA time-weighted average are part of an effect hearing conservation program.  This includes auditing the on-going program and training employees in the hazards of noise and required controls.


2.   Supervisors are responsible for maintenance of records, employee training and auditing the overall program.


3.   Human Resources is responsible to maintain employee medical records and all past employee records per the OSHA standard.


4.   All Employees whose noise exposures exceed a time-weighted average of 85 dBA or greater are responsible to wear appropriate hearing protection, take an active part in the annual training and take annual hearing tests.








A.  Noise Surveys


1.   Noise surveys are required to be done on work operations that have potentially high noise levels (85

     dBA and above). 


a.   The noise measurements will be retained by the Section Managers or designees and will be part

      of this overall noise data maintained at each location.


b.   Additional noise surveys will be taken when the Department introduces additional equipment or

      processes which could result in higher noise levels and periodically to re-verify the results.


c.   Assistance with noise monitoring can be obtained from the Risk Manager 

       though outside consultants.


2.   The noise survey measurements are recorded on the employees hearing test records or reference

       the current noise exposure levels.  The noise surveys are available for review by the employees by

       contacting their supervisor.


3.   Each employee exposed to noise at or above the 85 dBA average is to be    informed of the results.

      This will be done by posting the data and  including the information at the employee initial and annual

      employee noise training classes.



B.  Hearing Protection


1.   Hearing protection is required to be worn during the operation of equipment or processes that

      exceed 85 dBA noise levels as a time weighted average exposure.


a.   The hearing protection (ear barrier plugs and foam plugs) are available in variety of locations at

      Department facilities which will be pointed out to each new employee during their initial safety






2.   Employees will be trained in how to properly fit the hearing protectors by  their supervisor with

      assistance from the County Safety Manager or outside safety/health consultants.  If anyone has

      problems with the devices please contact your supervisor.


3.   Employees will be provided with at least two styles of protection - plugs or inserts to try on

      determining which device would be best for them.  All the devices provided will be evaluated to

      determine that they provided adequate noise attenuation for the noise exposures levels.


     4.   Each employee will be responsible for the maintenance of his/her assigned hearing protection



a.   Disposable plugs will be discarded at end of shift or when they become excessively soiled.


b.   Inserts or barriers will be checked prior to each use for any defectives.  If barriers are used the

      head band needs to be checked to ensure that it is tight and the insert are not torn, disfigured or

      do not properly seal.




c.   Follow manufacturer's recommendations on maintenance.



C. Audiometric (Hearing) Testing


1.   New employees assigned to a noise area will be given an baseline hearing test and then will be

      tested annually thereafter.  The Hearing Test will be given by an outside provider who has certified

      audiometric technicians.


a.      Baseline or initial test will be given to new employees at the time of hire.


b.      The baseline tests require that the employee not be in occupational noise area for 14 hours

       prior to the test. This test will be the reference for the further tests to determine if hearing levels



2.   Annual hearing test can be taken any time during a work shift.  These results will be compared with

      the baseline tests.


a.   Annual audiograms will be given by the outside provider who has certified audiometric



b.   Significant threshold shift (STS) criterion: The hearing loss  criterion is a change in hearing

      threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10 dB or more at 2000, 3000, and

     4000 hertz (Hz) in either ear.



Oregon, does not permit age as a factor in hearing loss as does Federal OSHA.


The employee may be retested within 30 days and consider the results of the retest to determine

if a permanent shift has occurred.


c.   Employees will be informed if their tests show significant changes in their hearing levels based

      on Oregon OSHA standards by written letter and follow-up by the Supervisor and/or the

     employees supervisor once notified of that change by our contract audiologists.  The employee

     will be notified within 21 days of receipt of the information from Industrial Hearing Service.


d.   In all cases of hearing loss the employee will be re-instructed on how to properly wear hearing

      protection.  The supervisor will follow-up on all hearing tests that show a reduction in the

     employees hearing from the baseline.


3.   Our contractor audiologist will determine if additional tests are needed and the status of the

      employee's hearing.



D. Employee Training


      1.   New employee will receive Hearing Conservation training at initial assignment to a noise area.  The

            training will be repeated annually for all noise exposed employees.  The specific training materials

            are provided in this manual and are to be a guideline for our supervisors and/or safety

            representatives to use.


      2.   A copy of the training materials will be available to our employees  by contacting his/her supervisor.


      3.   A copy of the Oregon OSHA Noise & Hearing Conservation Rules are posted on the safety bulletin

            at each of our locations where employees are potentially exposed to hazardous noise levels.


E.   Noise Engineering Controls


       1.   Management is responsible to determine if there are feasible engineering controls that could

            reduce noise levels to below 90 dBA as a time-weighted 8 hour average.


       2.   Engineering Control Feasibility Studies:  In some cases there may be records of noise control

             studies done on pieces of equipment or processes.  These records should be kept to show

             compliance with Oregon OSHA noise engineering control standard.  The records should be

             maintained for the duration the equipment or process is in use.


F.   Recordkeeping


              Records must be maintained for the various elements of the program.  This includes the following



1.   Noise Exposure Measurement:


     Time Frame: Current plus 2 years of results (note: the current record may represent measurements

                             taken longer than 2 years ago, this is permitted  long as  the readings are reflective of

                             noise exposure levels).


2.   Audiogram records:


    Time Frame: Duration of employment plus 5 years


3.   Training Records


    Time Frame: There is no time frame given in the rules but it is the policy to keep  the training records for

                            each employee the duration of employment and then forward all records to the Human

                            Resources Section.


4.   OSHA 300 Log Record


1.   If an employee=s hearing shift is permanent it must be recorded on the employer's OSHA 300



2.   Employee must be informed in writing within 21 days of the determination of permanent hearing


3.   Record Keeper: Human Resources and each Department has staff assigned responsibility for

      OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Log for each Department.






Oregon OSHA standards for Occupational Noise and Exposure requires that employers develop and implement a Hearing Conservation program where noise levels exceed an eight hour time weighted

average (TWA) of 85 dBA or the equivalent of a 50% exposure dose.  The rules also require that feasible engineering controls be implemented to reduce employee noise exposures to below 90 dBA as an eight hour average or the equivalent of a 100% exposure dose.  The following provides an outline of the specific rule requirements.  This should be reviewed by employees providing training or managing the hearing conservation program.


A.  Hearing Conservation Program Elements:


1.   Noise Exposure Monitoring:  Employers are to monitor the noise levels in their operations and identify those employees whose exposures exceed the 85 dBA average.  This can be done by noise survey and/or noise dosimetry.  The overall monitoring goal is to ensure that all potentially overexposed employees are       identified and the basic noise levels are determined for the proper selection of hearing protection.


a.   Accuracy of the measurements:  The monitoring is required to meet a " 2 decibels accuracy

      specifications.  Noise equipment needs to be pre and post calibrated to verify that the readings are



b.   Employee notification:  Each employee exposed at or above the 85 dBA average is to be informed

      of the results.  This can be done by posting the data and including the information in your initial and

     annual employee noise training.


c.   Noise measurement record retention:  At a minimum we are required to retain the noise

     measurement records for 2 years or for as long as they are representativeof the noise exposure



2.   Audiometric Employee Testing Program:  Employers are required to provide initial baseline test for all employees assigned to work in a noise area (85 dBA for eight hours).  This test is required to be provided within 180 days of assignment to noisearea.  Then annual hearing test must be given which are compared

to the baseline.  Specific rules on who can give the tests and comparison data are found in the regulations and need to be carefully followed.






3.   Hearing Protectors:  Employers are to make available hearing protectors for  employees exposed to noise at 85 dBA for an average over 8 hours.  If the persons shows a hearing loss and the noise exposure

is between 85 and 90 the protection must be mandatory worn.  If the noise levels are above an average 90 dBA protection is always mandatory.  It is a good practice to require hearing protection to be worn when noise levels are above 85 dBA.


a.   Employees are required to be trained on how to wear hearing protective devices.


b.   Employees are to be given an opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitabl

     devices.  OSHA views this as at least two types of protective devices.


c.   Employees need to be given initial fitting and supervised on the correct use of hearing protection.


d.   The protectors must attenuate the noise level to below 85 dB or lower.   This calculation is based on

       the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) found on the packaging of the protectors, then subtracting at

       least 7 dB and comparing that number to the average noise level found. 


       (See rule 437-121-110(B))


             An example is the noise level average of 95 dBA exposure:


95 -  85  = 10  minimum required noise reduction.

If the NRR for the hearing protection is 27 then the OSHA accepted protection would be:


27  - 7  = 20 dB, thus this be adequate hearing protection if worn properly.  (95 -  20 = 75 dB)


4.   Training program:  Each employer is required to institute a training program for all employees who

      are exposed to noise at or above a TWA of 85 dB, and shall ensure employee participation in such



Training is required as an initial orientation and annually thereafter.  The information provided is to

be updated to be consistent which changes in the protective equipment and work processes.  The

elements of the training program include:


a.   The effects of noise on hearing.


b.   The purpose of hearing protectors, the advantages, disadvantages, and attenuation of various

       types, and instructions on selection, fitting, use and care.


c.   The purpose of hearing tests and the testing procedures.


5.   Access to Information, Training Materials and Recordkeeping:


a.   The employer is to make available copies of the noise standard and post a copy in the workplace.


b.   All training materials are to be available to OSHA representative upon request.


c.   Records are to be kept of the noise exposure measurements, training program, and audiogram.

     The hearing tests are to be retained for the duration of the affected employee=s employment plus

     five years.  Exposure records are to be kept for 2 years and current exposure records are to

     always be available.


B. Noise Administrative and Engineering Controls (Rule 437-002-1910.95):


The standard requires that feasible administrative or engineering controls be implemented to reduce

noise exposure to below a time-weighted average of 90 dBA.


1.   Administrative controls involve the control of the employee's noise exposure time by job rotation

      an area that has noise levels below 90 dBA.  An example would be an employee who works in an

      area with an average of 95 dBA.  If the employee worked in this area for 4 hours or less and then in

      an area below 90 dBA his/her noise exposure average would be below an average 90 dBA.


This type of control can be difficult to manage and often does not match with an employer's operation

dealing with different levels of job skill and training.  The use of administrative controls does involve

close monitoring of employee work schedule and on-going noise monitoring to ensure that the

rotation positions do not have noise levels over 90 dBA.


2.   Engineering Controls -  Noise controls usually involves three elements:


1.   A source of noise.


2.   A receiver of noise - one or more observation points at which noise might affect the employees

       in the noise path.


3.   The various paths noise can travel between the source and the receiver.


If a given noise emission cannot be reduced at the source, noise control engineering entails

inhibiting the propagation of sound between source and receiver.  This can involve enclosures of the

source path or sound enclosure for the operator and other engineering changes.









Hearing protection is required when an employee's eight hour average noise exposure exceeds OSHA's permitted exposure of 85 decibels or a noise dose of 50% as measured by a noise dosimeter.  Douglas County employee noise exposure levels have been measured are based on the exposure during the use of equipment or processes. 



Sound waves move through the outer ear and set up vibrations in the middle ear.  The vibrations are then transferred to the inner ear.  The wave motion in the inner ear is sensed by the nerves in the inner ear (cochlea), which transmits neural messages to the brain.  Thus the mechanical energy generated by sound is transferred in our ears to an electrical signal that our brain interprets as sound.


Figure 1 - Basic Anatomy of the Ear - Illustration of Air Conduction & Bone Conduction Sound Path






















Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels can cause a noise-induced hearing loss.  When you are exposed to excessive noise levels, the first effect usually is a temporary hearing loss.  You may have

difficulty in hearing conversation or your ears may feel "plugged" and "ring."  Over a period of time, an individual who experiences repeated temporary hearing loss will have some permanent, irreversible hearing loss.


Noise-induced hearing loss (or acoustic trauma) involves damage to the receptor cells in the inner ear and

 is classified as sensor-neural impairment (see Figure 2).  A noise-induced hearing loss typically begins

with a drop in hearing level at the higher frequencies of 3000 hertz (Hz), 4000 Hz, and 6000 Hz.  As the hearing loss increases, it normally spreads to lower speech frequencies of 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, and 2000 Hz.


Early noise-induced hearing loss normally is not detected by an individual, since it occurs above the speech range.  By the time an individual is aware of a hearing loss, the amount of loss may be significant.


Figure 2: Noise Induced Hearing Loss

























There are three types of ear protectors:  a muff which covers the entire ear, a plug which is inserted into the ear canal, and a "stopper" which covers the outer end of the ear canal.  All three types are designed to reduce the amount of noise reaching the inner ear.


TYPE        ADVANTAGES                                                  DISADVANTAGES


Muffs              Easy to fit in place and                                 Causes pressure on the

take on and off                                               head


Easy for management to                              May not have a good

monitor their use                                           seal with glasses or

long hair


Do not irritate the ear                                    Are hot to wear in the

canal                                                               summer


Inserts &       Inexpensive                                                    Difficulty in fitting

Foam Plugs                                                                         (must fit tightly to

be effective)


More readily accepted                                 Tend to loosen with

by workers                                                     jaw movement


Can irritate the ear



Stoppers         Easy and quick to fit                                     Cause pressure on the

In place                                                           ear and may have low

Level protection





The reduction of noise by hearing protectors is called attenuation.  This is expressed in decibels.  The manufacturer of each hearing protector will indicate the amount of attenuation for each type of protector.  It will be listed on the package as the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).  The noise reduction levels needed for our employee exposures vary but in general require 20 to 30 dB attenuation level.


We have selected hearing protectors which are convenient and  comfortable, and provide the proper amount of protection for the noise encountered.  Under attenuating would lead to excessive noise exposure.  Over attenuating in moderate noise levels can lead to excessive sound attenuation reducing the ability to hear and, consequently, poor acceptance of the protectors.




Earplugs must fit tightly to provide a good seal.  The earplug is inserted by grasping the ear with the opposite hand, pulling it up and out to open the ear canal, and then inserting the plug with the other hand.


Muffs will normally fit all people without any difficulty.  Eyeglasses may interfere with the proper fitting of the muff.  Muffs that attach directly to hard hats are also available.


Ear stoppers are usually easy to position.  The headband can be worn on top of or behind the head, or under the chin.

When hearing protectors are initially worn, it may take a short time to adjust to the new sounds.  The same noises are heard, but at a much lower level.  After this adjustment period, voices, machinery noises, etc., can still be heard and understood the same as before, if not better.




The primary type of hearing protectors we use are disposable, however, they can be reused especially during the day as long as they are clean.  If oil, dirt or other materials are embedded into the foam then it must be discarded.


Ear protectors must be maintained in sanitary condition.  It is important that earplugs be clean when inserted into the ears.  If plugs are dirty when inserted, they may cause irritation which could lead to infection of the ear canal.  The same applies to stoppers.


Earplugs, when not in use, should be stored in some type of container which can be closed to seal out dust or dirt.  Earplugs should be replaced when they no longer can be cleaned or lose their pliability.  Ear muffs have a replaceable seal which should be kept clean.  The seal should be replaced whenever it becomes stiff or cracked.





Audiometric testing is a means of determining your hearing ability.  "Normal" hearing is the median hearing level of a large group of American adults between 18 and 25 years of age, having no known history of ear disease and no appreciable high-level  noise exposure.  The accepted normal range of hearing is between 0 and 25 decibels.


The audiometric test consists of exposing each ear separately to sound at six different frequencies.  The audiometric test will show the amount of hearing loss, if any, of an individual.  The higher the decibel reading, the greater the hearing loss.  As an individual ages, there is a natural hearing loss which takes place.  This is called presbycusis.  A cold, an ear infection, or recent high noise exposure can cause a temporary hearing loss which would produce poor test results.







The following issues were reviewed with the employee regarding noise exposure in their work area.


______  Overexposure to noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss which and can be permanent.


______  Noise damage is to the inner ear nerve cells.


______  Hearing protection is required to protect your hearing.


______  Loss due to noise is cumulative including on and off the job exposure


______  Loss is not evident to you during the early states of hearing damage


______  A person generally hears better in a noisy environment with hearing protection


______  Noise exposure increases general fatigue and in some cases blood pressure during the noise                                                                     exposure.


___________________________________________________________                         __________

SUPERVISOR WHO REVIEWED THIS MATERIAL NAME                                                                                   DATE



___________________________________________________________                         __________

EMPLOYEE SIGNATURE                                                                                                                                                DATE




Employees Name:__________________________________       Date: __________


Initial Training______________________  Annual Refresher _________________



True  False        QUESTIONS


____   ____  1.            Hearing protection is only required for the Finishers.


____   ____  2.            OSHA requires that hearing protection be worn when employees noise exposure exceeds 85 dBA

                                    for an eight hour average.


____   ____  3.            Best way to determine noise exposure level is to measure the levels using a noise dosimeter

                                    (meter that integrates the noise levels).


____   ____  4.            We hear when sound waves enter the ear and are transmitted through the middle ear into the inner

                                   ear which transfers the noise as an electrical signal to our brain that interprets the sound.


____   ____  5.            Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels can cause a noise induced hearing loss.


____   ____  6.            When you are exposed to excessive noise levels, the first effect usually is a temporary hearing loss.


____   ____  7.            Noise-induced hearing loss involves damage to the inner ear.


____   ____  8.            Early noise-induced hearing loss normally is not detected by an individual, since it occurs above

                                    the speech range.  By the time an individual is aware of a hearing loss, the amount of loss may be



____   ____  9.            Muffs provide the highest level of protection as compared to foam plugs.



____   ____  10.          There are not disadvantage in using foam plugs.



____   ____  11.          The reduction of noise by hearing protectors is called attenuation.


____   ____  12.          Douglas County has selected hearing protectors which are convenient and comfortable, and

                                    provide the proper amount of protection for the noise encountered.


____   ____  13.          Earplugs including foam plugs must fit tightly to provide a good seal.


____   ____  14.          The reason we are generally not using earmuffs is because safety glasses interfere with the proper

                                    fitting of the muff over the ear.


____   ____  15.          When hearing protectors are initially worn, it may take a short time to adjust to the new sounds.


____   ____  16.          The primary type of hearing protectors we use are disposable, however they can be reused

                                    especially during the day as long as they are clean.


____   ____  17.          Audiometric testing can protect your hearing.


____   ____  18.          Audiometric testing is a means of determining your hearing ability.


____   ____  19.          The accepted normal range of hearing is between 0 and 25 decibels.


____   ____  20.          The audiometric test will show the amount of hearing loss.  The higher the decibel reading, the

                                    greater the hearing loss.




The following checklist can be used of management and safety committee members when conducting an overall audit on

our noise and hearing conservation program.


Any areas not in compliance should be explained on the back of the checklist.  Recommendations for corrections should also be made.


ISSUE                                                                                          COMPLIANCE


A. Noise Exposure Monitoring                                                                                         (Y - N)


1.   Current noise exposure levels are available for all work positions that may be                     _________

over 85 dBA as an 8 hour time weighted average.


2.   The noise readings were done with a calibrated instrument                                               _________


3.   Noise measurement are retained and would be available to employees and                        _________

OSHA inspectors.


4.   The noise readings are noted on employee audiogram record.                                          _________


5.   Employees are notified of the noise exposure level results                                                _________


6.   Employee representatives were allowed to observe noise exposure monitoring                   _________




B.  Noise Control Measures & Hearing Protection


1.   All feasible noise controls have been implemented for employees= whose                         _________

noise exposures exceed 90 dBA.


2.   Records of noise control measures are maintained and would be available                         _________

for an OSHA inspector.


3.   All employees whose noise exposure exceeds 90 dBA or 85 dBA with                              _________

      hearing loss are wearing hearing protection.


4.   Employees were trained and fitted in hearing protectors.                                                  _________


5.   Employees were offered a variety of suitable protections to choose from                            _________


6.   Hearing protection attenuation was calculated and provides adequate                                 _________

protection for employee=s noise exposure (at least to less than 85 dBA TWA).


7.   Employees are wearing protection per manufacturer=s requirements.                            _________




ISSUE                                                                                                                        COMPLIANCE

C. Hearing Conservation Program                                                                           (Y - N)


1.   All employees whose exposure exceeds 85 dBA TWA are part of the                              _________

Hearing Conservation Program. (Includes hearing tests, noise protection,

and annual employee training)


2.   Only audiometric technicians or audiologists, or physicians meeting                               _________

state certification requirements are conducting the hearing tests.


3.   Baseline audiograms are obtained within 180 days of assignment to noise                       _________

areas over 85 dBA.


4.   The Baseline audiogram is taken with the employee away from workplace                       _________

noise for 14 hours.


5.   The employees are receiving annual audiograms which are compared to                          _________

the baseline audiogram.


6.   The audiograms are taken with audiometers that are properly calibrated:


A Functional before use test                                                                                         _________

B Annual calibration                                                                                                    _________

C Exhaustive calibration every 2 years                                                                          _________


7.   All significant threshold shift audiograms are evaluated by an audiologist,                        _________

otolaryngologist, or a qualified physician.


8.   Recommendations of professional reviewer were implemented                                         _________



9.   Proper follow-up is done for all employees showing an significant threshold



      A Employee is notified of the change within 21 calendar days                                         _________    

      B Employee is retrained and refitted in hearing protection                                               _________       

      C Employee is referred for medical attention as necessary                                              _________

D The STS is recorded on the OSHA 200 injury/illness log                                              _________














D. Employee Training Program


1.   All employees with noise exposures equal to or greater than TWA of 85 dBA                   _________

have received initial and annual noise training.


2.   Training covers the following topics:


A Effects of noise on hearing                                                                                        _________

B Hearing protectors use, maintenance, advantages/disadvantages                                 _________

C Purpose of hearing testing                                                                                        _________




E.  Access to Information                                                                                               (Y-N)



1.   The noise standard is posted and copies are available to employees or their ______



2.   Training and educational materials are available to an OSHA inspector        _________



F. Recordkeeping                                                                                    


1.   Noise exposure monitoring records are maintained and available.                                _________


2.   Audiometric test record must have following:


A Audiogram                                                                                                             _________

B Name & job classification of the employee                                                              _________

C Date of audiogram                                                                                                  _________

D Examiner=s name and certification number                                                              _________

E Date of last acoustic or exhaustive calibration                                                          _________

F Employee=s most recent noise exposure assessment                                               _________


3.   Sound readings as octave band levels in test room are available                                  _________






LOCATION/EQUIPMENT                                                  NOISE LEVEL dBA


Street Maintenance


Grader - 140 G CAT                                                               84.9

Power Broom - RJ 300                                                            86.9

Dump Truck                                                                             87.6

Front End Loader -International 530                                         85.1    

Patching Roller C-33                                                                95


Road/Vegation Clearing


Chipper                                                                                    111




Cat D7H Open Cab                                                                 100.6

Grinder Chipper                                                                       88

Compacter Cat 826C                                                               83.7






Note: All measurements were taken using a Metrosonic Noise Meter/Dosimeter as short term exposures to provide initial noise survey.

  To submit comments or suggestions
please email the Human Resources department.