As part of the Hearing Conservation Program, the employer is required to evaluate the effectiveness of any hearing protection provided to employees. Hearing protectors are rated using a system developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), know as the noise reduction rating (NRR). The NRR is derived in a laboratory setting. There is some controversy about the reported accuracy of the NRR. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) method for evaluating the effectiveness of hearing protection includes subtracting seven from the NRR to account for “real-world” versus a laboratory setting.
For OSHA compliance officers, OSHA divides the result in half before subtracting from the exposure level to account for individual improperly inserting the hearing protection. OSHA does not currently require employers to divide the result in half.
1. Which method of evaluation of hearing protection devices do you think employers should be required to use and why?
2. Do you think there is a better way to evaluate hearing protection devices? Please explain your response.