A successful hearing conservation audiometric testing program is highly dependent on quality historical records. OSHA 1910.95 mandates that testing reports include:
- Name and job classification of the employee
- Test date
- Test Administrator’s name
- Date of the audiometer’s most recent calibration
- Background sound pressure levels in audiometric test rooms
- Employee’s most recent noise exposure measurement (TWA)
- Completion of training materials
You will be required to produce these records should an employee, former employee, or auditor request them. As per OSHA, testing data must be kept on file for the duration of the employee’s employment. You may be asked to provide audiometric testing data for the entirety of an employee’s tenure with your organization. If you’re testing outside of a standard sound booth (as many clients do with SHOEBOX), you must also maintain ambient room noise records to prove that the environment was sufficiently quiet to adhere to OSHA’s Maximum Permissible Ambient Noise Levels (MPANLs).
In contrast, noise surveys and dosimetry records pertaining to specific employees need to be kept on file throughout employment, as well as for a minimum of two years following termination of employment.
Advantages of Digital Record Keeping
For customers who use SHOEBOX for occupational hearing testing, the entirety of their audiometric test and associated data, as listed above, is saved and stored digitally. There are several key advantages in favor of digital record keeping over paper files.
What comes to mind first is the space required to properly and safely store paper-based records. Some organizations have had to resort to paying for storage units that provide the necessary extra space to securely house paper records. With risks of fire, flooding, and paper degradation, this is not an optimal choice in the current information and technology age.
With digital records, there are no space limitations. Filtering through the information to find what is needed is also much more convenient with the advent of electronic record keeping. Precise information can be obtained immediately with a search query in a database for a specific employee’s name, ID number, and/or date range. The same type of search is significantly more tedious when using paper records. You must be highly organized to find needed data when searching through thousands, or even tens-of-thousands, of paper records potentially going back decades.
Turnover happens, and roles change within all levels of an organization. This can result in an overabundance of records, especially for companies with higher turnover rates. An employee may have only worked for your organization for a couple of months, but their hearing test data must be maintained with the same regard as your most tenured workers. The individuals administering your program can also exit your company, or the program may expand to a level where additional help is needed. Electronic records make the management of a hearing conservation program more straightforward for the people maintaining it today and for years to come.
A pervasive problem we often see is one of missing records and out-of-date baseline indicators. Once a record is missing, it can be troublesome to track, especially if you don’t know it’s missing. A common cause of missing records occurs when an employee visits an outside clinic for a test or retest. The employee may return with a paper copy of the audiogram that then needs to make its way into their HCP file. The results can get misplaced, or steps can be missed to have them uploaded into a records database. It can be challenging to ensure that hard copy records are uploaded in a timely manner to the database. Organizations utilizing outside clinic audiometric testing services will likely have a process in place to upload paper records. Chasing down these records with the clinic can be time-consuming and is likely not a priority in a busy Safety Manager’s schedule. Know that once your historical data is uploaded into the SHOEBOX Portal, it is accessible to you at any time in its entirety, at no additional cost to you. For some, it may take some extra time and effort to obtain and import historical records, but once the work is done, it will not have to be repeated in future.
What we encounter most often, however, is out-of-date data. When clients change service providers, some of the data settings can get lost in the process, or the data is incorrectly categorized or uploaded into the new database. If a company has done this several times, the issue becomes compounded and even more troublesome.
When new SHOEBOX clients come on board, we often see baselines that are out-of-date. They may have 20 years of records for an employee, but only a single baseline test established (usually from the employee’s hiring date). There may have been several persistent threshold shifts during that employee’s tenure. Often, a clinical priority when beginning with a new client is to review and correct their baseline data. If it is not up-to-date, this is highly problematic as it will result in a significantly higher percentage of STSs (Standard Threshold Shifts) . For a smaller number of employees (e.g. <300), an Audiology Reviewer to go in case-by-case to update them if they have the bandwidth to do this proactively. Alternatively, historical baselines can be reviewed and updated on a case-by-case basis as patients are triaged following annual hearing testing.
Digital Storage of Hearing Conservation Data
In our early days of offering occupational health solutions, we encountered some apprehension due to concerns with cloud-based storage of digital records. After learning about the advanced security measures that are in place to keep data safe and secure, these concerns are now a thing of the past. On the plus side, electronic records are more accessible, easier to work with, and don’t require any physical space for storage. SHOEBOX for Occupational Hearing Testing includes unlimited data storage. Once people understand the emphasis we place on data security and the new-found ability to manage records, the transition to cloud-based record storage is not only welcomed, it’s embraced.
Accurate and accessible audiometric testing data is one of the foundations of any well-maintained Hearing Conservation Program. Digital records provide organizations with the flexibility needed to scale and the ability to access decades worth of records with a quick and straightforward search.
This guide is intended to be a useful tool on your journey to in-house mobile hearing testing or adding iPad-based testing to your services business. We’ll be releasing a new chapter each week for the next 3 weeks! However, if you would like to download the complete guide now, complete the form below.
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