OHS Canada Magazine

WorkSafeBC’s hearing test system the first of its kind

Business Intelligence Solution drives early intervention to prevent occupational hearing loss


A new hearing test submission system created by WorkSafeBC will support occupational health and safety professionals in preventing long-term hearing loss. (Courtesy of WorkSafeBC)

Exposure can be painless, the damage irreversible. But roughly one in seven people who work around noise have noise-induced hearing loss — in workplaces such as construction sites, restaurants, and even fitness classes, according to WorkSafeBC.

Annual hearing tests for high-risk workers help with early detection, and a new hearing test submission system created by WorkSafeBC — the first of its kind in Canada, and possibly the world — will support occupational health and safety professionals, employers, and audiometric testers in preventing long-term hearing loss.

While all jurisdictions in Canada do not require hearing tests, BC does, and has since the 1980s. The new system creates a framework that other jurisdictions can learn from and follow.

“The new hearing test system will allow us to intervene at an earlier stage and identify controls that need to be put in place, not just for a company, but scaled up to an industry,” says Colin Murray, senior manager in WorkSafeBC’s Risk Analysis Unit.

He adds that hearing tests are a true measure of whether a workplace’s noise control and hearing conservation programs are effective. The new, modern system will help link complex hearing test data with actionable reports for prevention officers and employers.

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Producing better hearing test insights

The new Hearing Loss Prevention (HLP) system speeds up the entry of more than 150,000 annual tests on workers and tracks each worker’s hearing test history to help identify concerns early with the goal of reducing hearing-loss-related claims.

“The system means better data for our occupational health and safety officers, better information for employers in their efforts to prevent hearing loss in their workplaces, and better information for workers on their individual hearing health,” says Sasha Brown, occupational audiologist at WorkSafeBC.

Audiometric testers can now note changes in hearing while on site and counsel workers appropriately. Other benefits include employer reports to help manage hearing loss risk, as well as improved insights for WorkSafeBC to support hearing conservation programs.

“We started seeing some early detection problems,” says Murray, explaining that the hearing test system is a critical tool in identifying hearing loss. It has also helped prevention efforts focus on certain industries with high noise levels, such as construction, oil and gas, and restaurants.

Providing a missing link: New public-facing data dashboard

The system also includes a public-facing health and safety data dashboard that aggregates hearing test results from across the province.

“The new dashboard is the missing link for employers to be able to compare their results to industry-wide results to help them determine whether their hearing conservation program is effective,” says Brown.

Everyone from industry associations to researchers will also be able to see changes in hearing-loss trends by age, industry sector, and more.

This business intelligence solution features the first dashboard of its kind in the world that shows data analysis on trends and patterns with respect to noise-induced hearing loss.

The dashboard is available openly online under industry health and safety data on WorkSafeBC.com.


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