Clause 58 of the NSW WHS Regulation 2017 applies to audiometric testing. "Audiometric testing" means the testing and measurement of the hearing threshold levels of each ear of a person by means of pure tone air conduction threshold tests. Testing is conducted as per the requirements of AS/NZS 1269.4:2014.
Clause 58 says:
(1) This clause applies in relation to a worker who is frequently required by the person conducting the business or undertaking to use personal protective equipment to protect the worker from the risk of hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard for noise.
(2) The person conducting the business or undertaking who provides the personal protective equipment as a control measure must provide audiometric testing for the worker--
(a) within 3 months of the worker commencing the work, and
(b) in any event, at least every 2 years.
In New South Wales there has been an exemption to the application of Clause 58 which has been in place since January 2022 and will expire 31 December 2023. Before the expiry, SafeWork have stated they will publish guidance material ahead of time on noise and hearing and audiometric testing. Clause 58 will come into effect in NSW on January 1, 2024. (see note at bottom of page.)
SafeWork’s reasoning for not following Clause 58 is that PPE is meant to be a residual measure following full risk management actions applied using the Heirarchy of Control measures as per Clauses 33-38 of the WHS Regulation.
Under Clause 32 of the WHS Regulation and Section 19(3)(g) of the WHS Act it is the duty of the PCBU to manage risks in the workplace. Therefore, it is expected that the PCBU fully assesses and manages all risks that may lead to noise-induced hearing loss, ideally eliminating the risks entirely using the Hierarchy of Control measures.
Elimination is the desired result of any risk assessment.
PPE is a control measure applied in the event of a risk or risks that cannot be eliminated.
In every state and territory on the Model WHS Laws (other than New South Wales) mandatory testing must be conducted as per Clause 58 of the WHS Regulation. Soon this will apply to NSW too. Regardless of this, where there is risk of noise-induced hearing loss at work, these risks must be managed as per the existing overarching requirements of the WHS Act and WHS Regulation. Audiometric testing of staff may be a necessary risk management action. Noise-related hearing loss must be managed and eliminated as reasonably practicable. Regular testing may be recommended by SafeWork NSW inspectors for early prevention in workplaces where noise cannot be eliminated and PPE is in use.
Courtenell offers on site testing of your employees by a qualified audiometric tester who will fully test each person as per the requirements of AS/NZS 1269.4:2014. Please allow for 4 persons fully tested per hour. Audiometric testing clearly identifies hearing loss as the result of a) genetic-induced hearing loss, b) age-related hearing loss, or c) noise-induced hearing loss.
Information from SafeWork Australia: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/safety-topic/managing-health-and-safety/personal-protective-equipment-ppe/whs-duties