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Better Hearing Protection for Better Hearing Month

Contributor: Soundtrace

The Month of May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) which serves as a reminder to re-evaluate your company’s Hearing Conservation Program. According to the CDC, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States and is more prevalent than diabetes or cancer. Occupational hearing loss, which is caused by noise exposure, is the most common U.S. work-related illness.

In support of BHSM, there’s a “better” way to protect your employees’ hearing. In the past, protecting your employees from hearing loss has been restricted with options and limited data. Thanks to VPPPA member Soundtrace, their patented pending digital transformation solution is changing the way companies protect their employees from over-exposure to noise.

Identifying noise hazards and proactively intervening is critical to the long-term health of employees’ hearing. Traditionally, companies periodically or annually measure employee noise exposure with a sound level meter or noise dosimeter. The problem with this approach is that it assumes sound is a constant, predicting everyday will have the same decibel levels. 

The reality is that the only thing constant about sound is that it constantly changes. Soundtrace provides a state-of-the-art and proactive solution that monitors employee noise exposure in real-time generating intelligent insights, safety notifications, actionable improvements, and key metrics like Time-Weighted-Averages.  

If you’re asking yourself, “Why is real-time monitoring better?” The answer is simple, knowing that your employees are exposed to loud noise is not good enough. Understanding their actual exposure is not only better but critical. The difference between 85 decibels and 88 decibels might not seem significant but it’s 200% the intensity. The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) allows 8 hours of noise exposure at 85 decibels but only 4 hours at 88 decibels. 

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and implement corrective actions, you’ll protect your employee’s hearing for life.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.