Have you heard about the new ANSI/ASA S12.71-2018 standard for hearing protection fit testing systems? Learn more about it here.
Hearing protector fit testing has long been recognized as a best practice in hearing conservation by both regulators and professional organizations (OSHA, NIOSH, NHCA, 2008). Since then, more evidence suggests that hearing protection fit testing can change the practice and outcomes of hearing conservation programs. According to bulletin issued jointly by the OSHA/NIOSH/NHC Alliance, “Research studies have suggested that when individuals are involved in the fitting process and receive positive feedback on the proper fit of their earplug, they will be more likely to have a positive attitude about protecting their hearing and will be more apt to use hearing protection correctly and consistently in the workplace.”[i] Positive outcomes like this may result in helping to reduce noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the workplace.
All Fit-Test Systems are Not the Same
However, manufacturers have been developing hearing protection fit-test systems using a wide variety of methods and technologies. Results are represented differently depending on each manufacturer’s approach and design. Consequently, personal attenuation ratings (PARs) generated by different fit-test systems are not always comparable (Murphy, 2013). Questions linger about how fit-test systems collect and report results, the validity of the measurements, and if there are limitations for using specific systems. Soon after fit-test systems were introduced to the market, it became evident that standardization would be needed because of all these variances.
ANSI/ASA has recently published the first standard, setting the criteria that fit test systems should meet to help improve accuracy and reporting of fit test results. This new standard is titled ANSI/ASA S12.71-2018, American National Standard Performance Criteria for Systems that Estimate the Attenuation of Passive Hearing Protectors for Individual Users. This standard is the first of its kind worldwide and is a first step towards what may come in terms of similar workplace health and safety regulations.
With a standard to reference, manufacturers can now develop compliant systems, allowing regulators to recommend use of these compliant systems that meet the standard. This standard contains criteria that equipment manufacturers can apply to their hearing protection fit-test systems to help ensure accurate measurements and transparent reporting of results.
We believe that evidence-based standards are often a benefit to the customer and the manufacturer. Consequently, our company has chosen to make minor modifications to the software and user instructions of our fit-test system in order to fully comply with this new ANSI/ASA standard.
We encourage you to download our detailed ebook to learn more about the new standard and why voluntary compliance with that standard is important.