Noise at work is a problem affecting a large number of workers. For example, in 2019 in Canada, 5,525 work accidents were caused by noise exposure. In addition, noise exposure can have other adverse side effects on the workers’ health, such as fatigue, irritability, stress, isolation and depression. Prolonged exposure can also affect the hearing ability of the worker by causing deafness.
Finally, noise can affect concentration and focus during work, increasing the risks of work accidents. In addition, a worker who has occupational deafness is three times as likely to have an accident.
To help reduce accidents caused by noise exposure, the Quebec government went ahead with new measures about noise exposure prevention in workplaces. These new measures will become effective on June 16, 2023.
What changes with this new health and safety regulation?
The Regulation Respecting Occupational Health and Safety has been modified to better adapt to the current workplace reality. This regulation aims to limit damages associated with noise and attempt to eliminate the problem at the source. Here are the key changes:
- Establishing new limit values for noise exposure
- Noise exposure level evaluation methods
- Reasonable steps to be taken by the employer
- Applicable standards
Establishing new limit values for noise exposure
The noise exposure level for an eight-hour day must be 85 dBA maximum. To learn more about the formulas to calculate noise exposure levels, consult the Gazette officielle du Québec on this topic (pages 2724-2725).
Noise exposure level evaluation methods
To ensure their employees are adequately protected against noise, the employer must avoid placing a worker in a situation where the continuous sound pressure would be too intense and dangerous.
Here is a table indicating the pressure in dBA according to the continuous duration of noise exposure.
|Equivalent continuous acoustic pressure level (dBA)||Maximum time allowed per day|
It was interesting to compare the exposure time according to the noise level in dBA effective in 2021 and the other taking effect on January 16, 2023. The following table tableau helps evaluate the evolution of this regulation.
|Noise level (dBA)||Exposure time currently
allowed in 2021(hours/day) (RSST)
|Recommended exposure tim
applicable in 2023(hours/day) (CSA 94.2)
Reasonable steps to be taken by the employer
The employer will have one year following the entry into force of the new regulation to identify high-risk work situations that do not comply with noise exposure limit values.
It is important to mention that employer has 30 days to identify a work situation where the noise exposure exceeds or poses a risk to excel the exposure limit values.
Following those measures, the employer must commit to reducing or eliminating noise at the source to respect the established values. The employer must first start implementing the necessary measures to reduce or eliminate the noise in the year following the evaluation. The daily noise exposure and peak sound pressure must be measured to achieve this. They will have five years to implement the necessary means to reduce noise exposure.
The employer must take reasonable measures to limit sound propagation or limit noise exposures for workers. The following measures are recommended to limit noise exposure of workers:
- Replacement/maintenance of loud machine or equipment
- Isolate a workstation
- Soundproofing of workplace
- Noise control enclosure of a noisy machine
The information about noise exposure evaluations and methods must be kept in a registry for ten years. Work situations where noise exposure exceeds the limit values, the reasonable procedures implemented with their start and end date, and the measurement reports are the information that must be kept on record.
A qualified individual must measure noise exposure level. Only professionals or technicians with occupational hygiene training or acoustic training have the necessary capabilities to perform the required measurement. The regulation mentions that a person who masters noise measuring can also perform the requirement measuring.
The employer must provide their employees with the required hearing protectors to comply with the performance requirements found in CSA Z94.2-2014 Hearing Protection devices – Performance, Selection, Care, and Use. In addition, the provided protectors must reduce the noise exposure level to avoid exceeding the exposure level previously mentioned (85 dBA for an 8-hour day).
Finally, the employer must identify the zones where hearing protectors are required to reduce noise exposure. Signage must be clear and precise.
For more details about this new regulation, we invite you to read the Gazette Officielle du Québec du 16 juin 2021, numéro 24.