Hearing Conservation Procedure

Document Number001003
Date Approved27 November 2012



1.      Context

1.1        The University has a responsibility to ensure the safety and the prevention of injury to all people from its infrastructure and activities.

1.2        The Hearing Conservation Procedure has a goal of reducing as far as practicable, the risk to people’s hearing due to exposure to hazardous noise and/or ototoxic substances in the workplace.

1.3        This procedure supports the implementation of the University of Newcastle Work Health and Safety Policy [000972] and must be read in conjunction with that document.

2.      Definitions

In the context of this document:

Noise means any sound that is audible to a person;

Hazardous noise means noise that exceeds the National Standard for exposure to noise in the workplace;

Ototoxic substance refers to a chemical or material that can also cause hearing loss or exacerbate the effects of noise on hearing. A list of ototoxic substances is provided in section 6: Appendix A.

3.      Procedure

3.1        Preamble

The normal ongoing activities at the University should not cause people to be exposed to noise levels in excess of the limits set by the National Occupational Health & Safety Commission's National Standard for Occupational Noise (NOHSC:1007 (2000) or as outlined in the NSW Code of Practice: Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work.

3.2        Objective

i.     The objective of the Hearing Conservation Procedure is to achieve compliance with the NSW Code of Practice: Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work.

ii.     The National Standard for exposure to noise in the workplace is an average daily level of 85 decibels (A - weighted) across a duration of 8 hours in the workplace. Note that having to shout to be heard at arm’s length indicates that a sound level of approx 85 dB(A) is present.

iii.     For peak noise incidents (one-off noise events), the National Standard is 140 decibels (peak linear level). These levels are defined as the maximum acceptable levels for noise.

iv.     It is an objective to reduce noise exposures below these limits wherever practicable. The risk of adverse health effects due to excessive noise can be minimised by keeping noise levels below:

a)   50 dB(A) where work is being carried out that requires high concentration or effortless conversation.

b)   70 dB(A) where more routine work is being carried out that requires speed or attentiveness or where it is important to carry on conversations.

 v.     Excessive noise levels can cause noise induced hearing loss and other health effects such as anxiety, hypersensitivity to noise, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate. Excessive noise can also interfere with communication and lead to errors or accidents. There is also some evidence that exposure to hand transmitted vibrations can exacerbate the effects of noise on hearing. It should also be noted that there are certain types of equipment which, by their nature, emit frequencies which may impact on hearing such as sonicators (high-frequency sound generators used in research activities).

vi.     Exposure to a number of common industrial chemicals or materials (Ototoxic substances such as certain solvents, pesticides, and toxic metals) and some medications can also cause hearing loss or exacerbate the effects of noise on hearing, by damaging the cochlea in the inner ear and/or the auditory pathways to the brain, leading to hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss is more likely if exposure is to a combination of substances or a combination of the substance and noise.

3.3        Responsibilities

3.3.1   The University, and its Officers (including members of University Council, The Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Pro Vice-Chancellors, Heads of School and other Academic Leaders, Division Directors, Managers and Supervisors) all have responsibilities to ensure that:

i.     statutory requirements are complied with;

ii.    preference is given to purchasing items of equipment or plant that do not exceed the general 85 dB(A) limit or 50dB (A) limit for laboratory, office and computing equipment.

iii.   noise control measures and management strategies are implemented whenever necessary;

iv.   all levels of management and staff members and other workers, students and visitors are aware of the control measures in place to reduce exposure to noise;

v.    all staff members and other workers, students and visitors are directed to cooperate in using agreed safe work practices;

vi.   information on noise, the risks of exposure to noise and the appropriate control measures are readily accessible and disseminated in a manner appropriate to the workplace;

vii.   a comprehensive personal hearing protection program, including the selection of personal hearing protectors, and instruction of employees in their correct use and maintenance, is implemented; and

viii.  staff members and other workers, students and visitors receive other appropriate training and education relating to hearing conservation when it is required;

ix.    supervisors who are responsible for recruitment and induction processes relating to staff in their workplace, complete the Health and Hazard Assessment Questionnaire for each position type that is recruited in their area (including casual appointments) and identify excessive noise levels or any chemical use relating to the work area. Supervisors are not expected to define whether chemicals are ototoxic or otherwise, this will be determined by the University Health Service when reviewing the information in the Health and Hazard Assessment Questionnaire;

x.    audiometric baseline and ongoing testing occurs for staff members who are identified as being exposed to excessive noise levels or the use of ototoxic substances in their work area following advice from the University Health Service.

3.4       Staff Members, Other Workers, Students and Visitors’ Responsibilities

Staff members and other workers, students and visitors are responsible for complying with all statutory requirements and established workplace procedures, and cooperate, in all activities which have as their objective the protection of hearing at work and the minimisation of occupational noise-induced hearing loss.

3.5       Noise Control

These requirements are to be an essential and integral component of:

i.     the design brief for new and refurbished buildings;

ii.    the specification of new plant and equipment;

iii.   contractor safety management plans;

iv.   the development of teaching and research practices;

v.    workplace assessments;

vi.   relevant position descriptions requiring health surveillance.

3.6       Methodology

i.     Whenever a modification to a current activity or planning of a new activity occurs, the potential to generate any excessive noise is to be assessed.

ii.    In all cases, an assessment of the possible noise levels and the options available to eliminate or reduce the noise level are to be considered and undertaken where appropriate.

iii.   Wherever the level of the noise is expected to be greater than the level of 85dB(A), elimination, isolation, or engineering controls are to be implemented unless this is not practicable. In those cases where this is not practicable a variety of administrative control strategies and provision of protective hearing equipment are to be considered in order to reduce the risk of harm until elimination, isolation, or reduction of the noise hazard via engineering controls can be achieved.

iv.   When assessing the risk of exposure to noise of any magnitude, the goal of all controls is to be the elimination of people being exposed to that noise.

3.7       Provision of Protective Hearing Equipment

i.     Appropriate protective hearing equipment will be provided by the University whenever required. Consideration should be given to ensure that the use of protective hearing equipment does not block out other safety mechanisms such as plant or equipment warning signals or other special communication or warning systems.

3.8       Audiometric Testing

i.     Audiometric testing of staff who are required to work in areas where noise levels approach the limits set by the Standard will be carried out in accordance with AS 1269.4:2005.

ii.    New staff, whose positions are identified via the Health & Hazard Assessment Questionnaire as being exposed to high noise level environments or the use of chemicals that are ototoxic substances in their work area, will undergo a baseline audiogram prior to or at the commencement of appointment.

iii.   Heads of School/Supervisors of ongoing staff whose work environment changes from no or little exposure to exposure to high noise levels or the use of chemicals (which may or may not be ototoxic substances) in their work area will be responsible for identifying these positions and advising Human Resource Services/ Health and Safety within 2 working days.

iv.   Staff who are identified as being exposed to noise levels in excess of 85dB (A) will be tested at yearly intervals, or more or less frequently if determined necessary by the University Health Service. Responsibility for payment of audiometric testing costs shall be met by the relevant workarea.

3.9       Responsibility for Implementation of the Procedure

Responsibility for the implementation of the procedure rests with the local area Supervisor or Manager. Responsibility for ensuring the overall hearing conservation program is developed and implemented rests with the Associate Director Health and Safety.

4.      Essential Supporting Documents

Work Health and Safety Policy 000972

WorkCover NSW: Code of Practice for managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work

5.      Related Documents

Safe Work Australia. National Standard for Occupational Noise (NOHSC1007<2000>)

Australian Standard AS/NZS 1269.0:2005 - Occupational noise management - Overview and general requirements

Australian Standard AS/NZS 1269.2:2005 - Occupational noise management - Noise control management

Australian Standard AS/NZS 1269.3:2005 - Occupational noise management - Hearing protector program

Australian Standard AS/NZS 1269.4:2005 - Occupational noise management - Auditory assessment

6.      Appendix A: Ototoxic Substances

The following table is taken from page 29 of the WorkCover NSW: Code of Practice for managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work.

It lists common ototoxic substances. Any queries regarding Ototoxic substances should be directed to the Health and Safety Team.


Table A1: Some common ototoxic substances3



Skin Absorption



Carbon  disulphide



Ethyl  benzene








Solvent mixtures and fuels  Stoddard solvent (white spirits)















Organic tin



Carbon  monoxide


Hydrogen cyanide





Approval AuthorityDirector, Human Resource Services
Date Approved27 November 2012
Date for Review27 November 2015
Policy SponsorDirector, Human Resource Services
Policy OwnerAssociate Director, Health and Safety
Policy ContactSenior Safety Officer, Health and Safety
Amendment History

New procedure to replace the Occupational Noise Policy 000242, approved by Acting Director Human Resource Services, 27 November 2012.