Meaghan Barrett, who is an articling student at Aird &
In December 2015, the Ministry of Labour approved a new noise
regulation which comes into force on July 1, 2016. The new
regulation, Ont. Reg. 381/15, made under the Ontario Occupational
Health and Safety Act, is intended to help protect all workers from
noise-induced hearing loss, which the Ministry calls "a
leading cause of occupational disease for Ontario
The regulation replaces existing noise requirements for a
variety of businesses, including industrial establishments, mines
and mining plants, and the offshore oil and gas industry. It also
extends specific noise protection requirements to construction
sites, health care facilities, schools, amusement parks, farming
operations and police and fire services.
As of July 1, 2016, worker exposure to noise will be limited to
a maximum time-weighted average exposure limit of 85 decibels over
the course of an eight-hour shift. Employers will be required to
put measures in place or enhance existing measures to reduce worker
exposure to noise. These measures are based on what the Ministry
describes as a "hierarchy of controls." Employers will
need to consider engineering controls to reduce noise at its source
or along the path of transmission, scheduling and work practices
involving equipment maintenance, limiting exposure time, and the
use of personal hearing protection devices.
Personal hearing protection devices are only to be used as a
last resort where, for example, other control measures do not
exist, are not suitable for the work environment, or are neither
practical nor reasonable based on their effectiveness, cost,
technical feasibility or future implications for use, servicing and
maintenance of equipment.
As well, employers must post a warning sign, where practicable,
at every approach to any area where the sound level regularly
exceeds the 85 decibel exposure. Undoubtedly, many Ontario
businesses already have appropriate noise protection measures in
However, even businesses which are already regulated for noise
should consider whether they need a noise level assessment.
According to the Ministry guidelines under the current regulations,
a crude assessment of noise level exposure can start with the ease
or difficulty in hearing another person speak at a distance of
about one meter.
If it is necessary that someone speak very loudly in order to be
heard, it is likely that the level exceeds 85 decibels.
It is important to point out that even if workers are exposed to
noise levels below 85 decibels, some noise control measures may
still be required. Exposure concerns are based on a worker's
cumulative exposure to noise throughout his or her work day.
We recommend that all workplaces, whether currently regulated
for noise or about to be regulated for noise, consider having a
noise level assessment performed prior to July 1, 2016, in order to
ensure that the right measures and controls are in place prior to
or on that date of the regulation coming into force.
Existing policies and procedures should be reviewed, or new ones
created, to ensure compliance. These should identify sources of
noise and the measures taken to control noise, taking into account
cumulative overall exposure. In addition to any new or refresher
training on applicable measures, if personal noise protection
devices are used, employers must make sure that the workers are
trained on their applicability and use, and any monitoring or
quality assurance programs should include noise protection.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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