4-10 Hearing protection
O. Reg. 381/15 - Noise, made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, applies to all workplaces in Ontario including fire services. The intent of the regulation is to ensure that workplace exposures to noise above a certain sound level are eliminated or properly controlled to protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss.
Firefighters may be exposed to high noise levels in certain situations such as operating power tools or operating or riding in fire service apparatus.
Actions for employers
Employers must comply with the Noise Regulation, which applies to fire services.
- take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels. This includes ensuring that no worker is exposed to a sound level greater than a time-weighted average exposure limit of 85 dBA measured over an 8-hour work day
- post warning signs in the workplace where the sound level regularly exceeds 85 dBA, where reasonably possible
- provide workers with adequate training and instruction on the care and use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) provided by the employer
- develop a hearing protection program
- identify when hearing protection should be used during emergency operations
Hierarchy of controls
When the prescribed exposure limit would be exceeded, employers are required to put in place protective measures to proactively reduce workers’ noise exposure. These measures include:
- engineering controls to reduce noise at the source or along the path of transmission
- work practices such as equipment maintenance (to keep it quieter) or scheduling to limit a worker’s exposure time
- personal protective equipment in the form of HPDs, subject to the restrictions stated in the regulation
The preferred and most effective way to control noise exposure is through the use of engineering controls. The regulation sets out the conditions under which HPDs may be used for worker protection. Employers who provide workers with HPDs must provide them with adequate training and instruction on their care and use. HPDs must be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Reducing noise exposure
Consider the following to identify and reduce noise exposure:
- conduct noise level testing of fire service vehicles, warning devices and equipment
- reduce or eliminate potentially harmful sources of noise in the work environment by using:
- engineering controls
- personal protective devices where reduction or elimination strategies do not achieve the required exposure reduction
Applicable regulations and acts
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- clause 25(2)(a) for providing information and instruction to a worker
- clause 25(2)(d) for making workers aware of hazards
- clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers
- O. Reg. 381/15 - Noise for protection of workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels
For information on occupational health and safety programs read the NFPA 1500 Standard on fire department occupational safety, health, and wellness program
For information and assistance in complying with the Noise regulation, read A guide to the noise regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- see appendix B for the table of equivalent noise exposures