Keeping accurate and complete records is more than a legal requirement; it's good business.
When employers document how and when they implemented each of the elements of a Hearing Loss Prevention Program (HLPP) they may be better prepared to demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations.
In addition, good records may provide evidence to help an employer accurately track employees' hearing over time and, if necessary, record cases of work-related noise-induced hearing loss in respect of worker compensation claims.
Many companies adopt a philosophy of, “document everything” while others keep records of only what is required. Despite the extra effort required to document all the actions that have been taken to reduce employee exposure to hazardous noise, doing so may help to strengthen the employer's ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of its hearing conservation program in the event of an inspection, audit, or program evaluation.
Consider whether hearing conservation program records will be maintained electronically or on paper or both and whether records will be held in a central database or at each location. A well-defined process that is consistently followed helps to reduce the likelihood of missing records and may increase the usefulness of the data.
For each type of information that is included in HCP records, the employer needs to decide who is responsible for capturing the data and who will be able to view the records once they are saved. Limiting access to records to those who have a need to review data for program management purposes helps reduce the possibility that records are compromised in some way or that data are inadvertently modified or deleted.
Since hearing conservation program records may include confidential health information, it is recommended that these records be protected to help protect the privacy of individual workers and assure that only those who have the proper credentials have access to sensitive data. In addition, there may be applicable data or health privacy regulations governing the storage, access to, or transmission of information, so make sure to contact your legal advisor and ensure full compliance with any such rules and regulations.
For general industry, employers should keep an accurate record of noise exposure measurements and audiometric test records for the duration of employment of the employees who are in the hearing conservation program.
The types of hearing test records to be retained include:
Access to all records must be provided to employees, former employees, representatives of employees and OH&S inspectors. When ownership of the company changes or employees are transferred to a new employer, the noise exposure and hearing test records described above must be transferred to the successor employer.
Workers who suffer noise-induced hearing loss related to their employment can make a claim for compensation under their State or Federal Workers Compensation Legislation.
The benefits obtained when employers carefully record what they are doing to prevent hearing loss are, in large part, proportional to the accuracy, completeness and accessibility of the documents.
Most decisions made by the people who manage HLPPs are dependent on the quality of the data kept by the employer. When the data contain errors or there is excessive variability, it can lead decision makers to doubt the accuracy of the records and make it difficult to confidently manage their program. To help prevent that from happening, establish a robust process for keeping records and verify that the key people in the program are following that process. Each person who has access to HLPP records should be trained to look for indications that records are not accurate or do not reflect what has been done to implement the program. In addition, make sure to consult with your legal advisor to ensure that all applicable government rules and regulations are followed with respect to storage, access to, and transmission of personal and health information.
Records are most useful when they are complete and have been kept consistently over time. This is especially critical when it comes to audiometric test data. If the audiometric records indicate that an employee has experienced a Standard Threshold Shift (STS), the employer must conduct follow-up actions. If the STS is potentially recordable, key information is needed to determine if the hearing shift is due, at least in part, to workplace noise exposure. Missing records, inaccurate information, or gaps in the data make it very difficult for the audiologist or physician who reviews the records to make that decision, and the employer may have no other option than to assume that the hearing loss is work-related.
Although the security of records must be maintained, employers must make key records available to employees, their representatives, members of the hearing loss prevention team, and inspectors or representatives of regulatory agencies. To help maintain control of documents, establish a system in which a limited number of people who have direct access to the records can share copies of documents with others who need to view them.
Records of noise exposure measurements and hearing test records be retained for the duration of employment plus 30 years.
Consider keeping other records for the same period of time, including those related to:
There is a range of privacy legislation in place across all States and territories as well as federally. All health records need to be kept confidential and treated according to the requirements of this legislation and associated guideleines.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This information is based on selected current national requirements. Other State or local requirements may be different. Always consult User Instructions and follow local laws and regulations. This website contains an overview of general information and should not be relied upon to make specific decisions. Reading this information does not certify proficiency in safety and health. Information is current as of the date of publication, and requirements can change in the future. This information should not be relied upon in isolation, as the content is often accompanied by additional and/or clarifying information. All applicable laws and regulations must be followed.