A major beverage manufacturer requested an employee noise exposure survey from the insurance broker’s risk control consultant. The client wanted to determine the number of workers that needed to be enrolled in a hearing protection program. The broker’s certified industrial hygienist (CIH) expanded the project to focus engineering controls to reduce the overall noise levels.

The initial request for an employee noise exposure survey was accomplished on the first day of the risk control visit. The results indicated that all of the employees could be excluded from a formal OSHA hearing conservation program if the overall noise levels in the beverage packaging area could be reduced by 3dBA.

The consultant identified two machines in the packaging area that were responsible for generating the highest noise levels. The broker’s risk consultant worked with the client’s production engineering staff to redesign the enclosure around those machines.

With the implementation of the new noise enclosures, the overall noise level in the packaging area can be reduced by 5dBA (50% noise reduction) and the employees would no longer be required to be enrolled in a formal OSHA hearing conservation program.

A formal hearing conservation program includes initial and annual hearing tests, providing the employees with hearing protection, and training. The cost of maintaining an employee in the hearing conservation program is approximately $400-$500 per year. Reducing the noise, and the requirement for a hearing conservation program, relates to a savings of $49,000 annually.

The other advantages of reducing the noise levels by 50% are:

  • Significant decrease to the risk to employees for suffering from occupational hearing loss
  • Reduction of potential workers’ compensation claims from occupational hearing loss
  • Improved communication and production
  • Overall safety improves as employees are more aware of their surroundings

The overall cost of the re-engineered noise enclosures was approximately $3,000. The engineering improvement can be shared with the other facilities and become the new standard for protecting the workers’ hearing, reducing compliance costs, enhancing safety, and improving productivity.