Until recently, about the only workplaces where employers had to worry about noise levels were factories, mines and oil rigs.
That all changed December 9th of last year when Regulation 381/15 was approved. Set to take effect July 1, 2016, the regulation extends noise protection requirements to the following workplaces:
- farming operations,
- construction projects,
- health care facilities,
- fire services,
- police services, and
- amusement parks
The stated objective of the Regulation, which falls under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, is to help protect Ontario’s workers from noise-induced hearing loss, a significant occupational disease in the province.
To achieve this, employers must take “all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels.” While is obligation may be open-ended, it expressly includes:
- ensuring that no worker is exposed to sound levels above a maximum time-weighted exposure limit of 85 decibels over an eight-hour work shift (without requiring employees to wear hearing protection);
- implementing and use in preferred order of: engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment to reduce workers’ exposure to noise (with protective equipment being a secondary solution permitted in limited circumstances);
- posting warning signs at approaches to areas where sound levels regularly exceed 85 decibels; and
- providing adequate training and instruction to a worker provided with a hearing protection device.
For many employers in Ontario, this will mean either obtaining or reconfirming current workplace noise levels, often with the assistance of a consultant, whose reports should be preserved to ensure compliance can be demonstrated with the new Regulation. Implementing a policy for noise reduction and hearing protection may also be a valuable part of a long-term plan to keep the noise down.