By Garrett Burnett, MS, MBA and Amanda Terminello, MPH

Every year 22 million workers are at risk of losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards. Work-related hearing loss is a widespread problem, but it is a problem that can be solved. On August 1, 2016, NIOSH, OSHA, and MSHA issued a challenge to inventors and entrepreneurs with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation. More than 30 entries were submitted and the top ten were invited to present their ideas at the Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge event on October 27, 2016. A panel of judges consisting of business experts, investors, and innovation specialists listened to pitches, asked questions, and selected three winners based on the assumed effectiveness of the solution combined with its commercial viability. This blog entry is the third in a three-part series summarizing the solutions presented by the Challenge winners and finalists. References to products or services do not constitute an endorsement by NIOSH or the U.S. government.

Finalist: James Craner

James Craner, MD, MPH is an occupational medicine physician based in Reno, Nevada and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine. His 20 plus years of clinical and consultative experience have provided him with unique insight into the challenges faced by companies of all sizes in hazardous, highly regulated workplaces such as gold and silver mining, assay laboratories, and chemical manufacturing.

Dr. Craner recognized a key paradox companies face in effectively fulfilling health and safety regulatory requirements: Companies comply with health and safety regulations by performing required tasks and collecting necessary documentation, but they often don’t have the resources, time, expertise, or tools to continuously measure how effective their compliance programs are in terms of preventing injury or disease.  A multitude of compliance data is collected through various compliance software applications or manual methods, but this data isn’t necessarily being used to implement and measure prevention—nor do regulatory agencies inspect or analyze it without the company reporting a problem, workers’ complaint, or an OSHA inspection.  According to Craner, companies collect the required employee audiograms and report standard threshold shifts, but often they don’t effectively use this data to prevent noise-induced hearing loss or measure the effectiveness of their hearing conservation programs.

The need for technology that solves these gaps in achieving effective health and safety compliance was Dr. Craner’s impetus to create Verdi Technology, Inc. and team up with software architect Ted Short and statistician Neil Willits, PhD, along with industrial hygienists and audiologists. Their solution is webOSCAR, a subscription-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) information platform that automates and streamlines the process of managing health and safety compliance. webOSCAR is used by companies to manage scheduling, data collection, tracking, analysis, reporting, distribution, and documentation for activities such as employees’ medical exams, lab tests, respirator fit tests, and audiograms.

At the Hear and Now Challenge, Dr. Craner represented his team and introduced webOSCAR’s patent-pending dBw method for automated audiometric data analysis. The dBw is designed to automatically identify early audiometric changes in individuals and groups of workers before irreversible hearing loss occurs and to measure and report the actual effectiveness of hearing conservation programs.

Dr. Craner and his colleagues are currently exploring opportunities to partner with additional organizations and to integrate into other business applications such as human capital management, asset/maintenance management, and enterprise resource planning software.

More about this Hear and Now Challenge finalist, including contact information, is available at the following website:

Finalists: Joe O’Brien and Ted Smith

Joe O’Brien and Ted Smith firmly believe that compliance with safety regulations saves lives and prevents injuries and illnesses. Mr. O’Brien has a passion for protecting workers and has more than 20 years of experience as...Click here to read the rest of the blog post.