ANSI/ASA has recently published the first standard setting the criteria that fit-test systems should meet to improve accuracy and reporting of hearing 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.
Why Should I Fit Test My Employees?
There are many benefits of fit testing workers, including helping to identify employees who are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). You can test to see who is wearing their HPDs appropriately and if the hearing protection is performing properly. This provides an opportunity to not only train and motivate employees to wear their hearing protection properly, but it also presents the occasion to train the trainer. You can also follow-up on standard threshold shift (STS) cases and many fit-testing systems provide documentation of results, which you can then use for training and for analyzing if any changes need to be made to your hearing conservation program.
Are There Any Studies that Show the Benefits of Fit Testing?
Yes. In a study conducted by Sayler et al. concluded that, “The use of fit-testing in hearing conservation programs to evaluate PAR is recommended to avoid overprotection from noise exposure while also minimizing instances of under-attenuation.”[i]
The beneficial impact of fit testing is also highlighted in a study by Alcoa Australia in 2006 that reported implementing 12 initiatives to improve hearing conservation throughout their mining facilities. They monitored outcomes for seven years and concluded that improvements in the numbers of age-corrected confirmed 10 dB hearing shifts (averaged at 2, 3, 4 kHz) were attributable to improved education and fit testing.[ii]
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.
Evidence-based standards are often a benefit to the customer and the manufacturer. Consequently, manufacturers have chosen to make minor modifications to the software and user instructions of their fit-test systems in order to fully comply with the new ANSI/ASA standard. You can also learn more about the standard by reading this quick blog and by downloading this informative eBook that includes much more about fit testing, the new ANSI standard, compliant fit-test system products, supporting studies and how this can be an effective way to help elevate your hearing conservation program.
For #WorldHearingDay, help keep your workers safe by learning about this standard and what hearing protectors are available to help prevent hearing loss.
[i] K Sayler, Stephanie & Rabinowitz, Peter & Galusha, Deron & Sun, Kan & L Neitzel, Richard. (2018). “Hearing Protector Attenuation and Noise Exposure Among Metal Manufacturing Workers.” Ear and hearing. 40. 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000650.
[ii] Donoghue, AM, Frisch, N, Dixon-Ernst, C, Chesson, BJ, and Cullen, MR (2015). “Hearing conservation in the primary aluminum industry,” Occup. Med. doi”1093/occmed/kqv168