Today's News

Alcoa: Always ahead of the curve with hearing conservation programs (2/28)

Alcoa began giving employees audiograms in 1952, 30 years before OSHA would issue its Hearing Conservation Amendment in 1983, according to Christine Dixon-Ernst, CIH, and technical manager, occupational health, for Alcoa.

Making decisions about hearing conservation before regulators took action, Alcoa in 1975 adopted an internal standard of a permissible exposure level for noise of 85 dBA. In 1979 the company began to computerize its audiometric tests, and in 1980 developed an internal standard for dealing with workers with hear loss and shifts in their level of hearing.

So it was no surprise when OSHA issued its updated hearing conservation laws in 1983, Alcoa found itself through audits to be already in compliance. “We used the (new OSHA law) as a trigger, a springboard to develop a long-term corporate-wide strategy across our global locations to further reduce hearing loss,” said Dixon-Ernst. Noise is an obvious and significant health risk in aluminum smelters.

Hearing loss among Alcoa workers has been reduced in the past 15 years, but much work remains, said Dixon-Ernst. She still battles the management perception that “our people can’t be having hearing loss because they’re all wearing HPDs.” That doesn’t address the issues that HPDs might be fitted poorly, removed to communicate, or simply not worn when there is no monitoring, she said.

Among the benchmarks of Alcoa’s hearing conservation program: hearing conservation coordinators are assigned at each location worldwide; a corporate hearing program has been standardized and harmonized for all locations worldwide; goals have been set to reduce hearing loss; annual program audits are conducted with reports ensuing; workers with a recorded hearing loss shift of at least 10 dBA are tracked to determine if the loss is work-related, or due to a head cold, concert seen over the weekend, recreational hunting, or attending a NASCAR race on Sunday and getting a hearing test Monday morning.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

4/14/15 2:00 pm EDT

RISK-BASED SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: Key Components for Applying Risk Tools to EHS Efforts

Join us for this webinar as we discuss how you can make effective use of risk analysis and risk management technology to guide efforts within your organization. We will distinguish between risk analysis and risk management; and identify some of the software tools that will help proactively identify, document, mitigate, and prevent high-risk events. You will learn how to improve compliance, reduce risk, and cut costs in your organization using these automated tools.

ISHN Magazine


2015 April

Check out ISHN's April issue, which features content about lockout-tagout, heat stress, hearing protection and more!

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2015



For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. 



Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.