Overall hearing loss riggers OSHA reporting

Final rule sets a standard of 25 dB

In a new record-keeping provision that becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2003, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that hearing loss is recordable if the employee has a hearing level of 25 dB or greater above audiometric zero and a work-related change of 10 dB averaged over the frequencies 2,000; 3,000; and 4,000 Hz.

"[The rule] ensures there is a significant amount of hearing loss with your employers and that you have a significant amount of hearing loss overall," says Jim Maddux, a statistician with OSHA’s directorate of safety standards. "It makes sure each hearing loss is truly an abnormal condition."

Hearing from audiometric zero to 25 dB is considered normal, says Maddux. The previous criteria recorded shifts of 25 dB.

The rule also allows the employer to include an adjustment for hearing loss due to aging and to seek the advice of a physician or licensed health care professional to determine if the hearing loss was work-related. In its final rule, OSHA provides a table that can be used to adjust audiogram results. (http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9741&p_text_version=FALSE.)

"The 2001 [record-keeping] rule presumed that hearing losses were work-related if you were working in a noisy environment," Maddux says.

Employers also may retest the worker’s hearing within 30 days to make sure the hearing loss is persistent, the rule states.

(Editor’s note: The final rule can be accessed from the July 1 entry of www.osha.gov/wutsnew.html.)