As an employer, you are concerned with the safety of your employees, so you hold safety meetings and make sure that they have access to the proper protection – and that they are trained to use them correctly.
This can make it even more distressing when Audiometric Testing detects Standard Threshold Shifts in one or more of your employees.
What happens next? Does this need to be listed on my OSHA 300 Log? Am I facing penalties? Will this affect my insurance rates?
While you are right to be concerned, there is no reason to worry yet.
When Audiometric Testing reveals a shift that is severe enough to be reported, the employer then has 30 days to have that employee (or employees) re-tested. As we’ve discussed before in this blog, there are many external factors that can affect an employee’s performance on Audiometric Test such as illness, allergies or even exhaustion (onsite testing includes third shift and overnight crews).
If the re-test confirms the shift, then the case goes to the Workplace Determination phase.
Because employees use the same ears (and lungs, hands, backs, etc.) at work as they do at home, it can be difficult to determine with confidence who is responsible for the employee’s injury (hearing loss is registered on the OSHA 300 Log alongside other injuries such as severed fingers). Hearing loss can be caused by a wide range of factors inside and outside of the workplace depending on the employee’s exposure to sounds, and in some cases, such as an aging workforce, hearing loss is a natural part of life that occurs independently of exposure to noise.
Here are five things that employers should know about who performs a Workplace Determination, what information they take into consideration, and how their findings can affect their company.
1. Who performs a Workplace Determination?
While the initial Audiometric Tests can be administered by onsite technicians, Workplace Determinations are performed by licensed physicians/audiologists. At OMY, we work with professional Audiologists and physicians who specialize in Occupational Medicine.
2. What information do they take into consideration during a Workplace Determination?
A detailed follow-up questionnaire is e-mailed to the employee that reveals a clearer picture of their daily sonic intake. The questionnaire inquires about their personal noise exposure, their exposure on the job, are they wearing hearing protection, and, if so, are they using it correctly, and more. The physician/audiologist will also consider a time-weighted average of decibels in the employee’s specific department along with a complete history that includes their previous Audiometric Tests and the information gathered in their intake questionnaire.
3. What happens if the Standard Threshold Shift is determined to be not workplace-related?
If a shift is declared to be caused by factors outside of the workplace, the employee’s file is updated accordingly and there is no need for the employer to list this incident on their OSHA 300 Log. The employee has already been notified of the shift during the initial testing so they can take the proper precautions. However, it might be a good idea to retrain the employee regarding the proper use of hearing protection in the workplace as a precautionary measure.
4. What happens if the Standard Threshold Shift is determined to be workplace-related?
If a shift is declared to be directly linked to the workplace, the employer will be required to list the incident on their public OSHA 300 Log. This can leave them open to OSHA penalties and possibly affect their insurance rates.
5. Can a Workplace Determination be appealed?
Workplace Determinations – along with items that have been previously included on a company’s OSHA 300 Log – can be revised and appealed if new information emerges that wasn’t considered during the previous Workplace Determination. Items can be retroactively challenged or removed.
OMY can guide companies through the entire Audiometric Testing process from initial tests and re-tests to Workplace Determinations and appeals.
Contact us today to get a quote.