Exposure to Workplace Noise & OSHA's Hearing Conservation Standard
Noise may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of workplace dangers that cause diseases and accidents. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to workplace noise can have negative effects on the mind and body in addition to possibly causing hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established regulations that limit the amount of noise that employees may be exposed to during a workday due to the risks that come with excessive noise.
Occupational Noise Exposure Health Effects
Long-term exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss. However, prolonged exposure to extreme noise can also have negative effects on one's health. One of these is tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing in the ears. In addition to headaches, noise exposure might result in high blood pressure, anxiety, or despair.
Employers frequently see a decline in production and employee morale as a result of these circumstances. Additionally, there may be more workplace mishaps or employees who need to take sick days.
Permissible Noise Exposure Levels
According to OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1910.95, no worker can be exposed to noise greater than 90 decibels for eight hours during a workday. This standard takes into account that the noise in any given workplace may be higher or lower than 90 decibels. The louder the noise, the less amount of time that the employee can be exposed to it over the course of an eight-hour workday.
The following table helps illustrate how, as decibels increase, the amount of allowable exposure decreases:
Allowable Exposure Time in Hours
Sound Level dBA
¼ or less
OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard
OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1910.95 establishes the maximum allowable time that a worker can be exposed to noise at a certain decibel. At the low end, workers cannot be exposed to noise of 90 decibels for longer than an average of eight hours during a workday. At the upper end of the regulations, workers are not permitted to be exposed to noise of 115 decibels for more than 15 minutes in a workday. In addition, impact or impulse noise should not exceed 140 decibels.
The regulation goes on to say that when workers are exposed to noise exceeding these limitations, measures must be taken to reduce that exposure. The regulation also requires that employers whose workers are exposed to 85 decibels or more over an eight-hour period create and administer a hearing conservation program.
Tips for Occupational Noise Reduction
While earplugs and earmuffs may lessen the noise that employees are exposed to, they should not be regarded as a stand-alone noise reduction method. Employers can take additional measures to assist safeguard the hearing and health of their employees.
First, employers might think about designing a secure, quiet area away from intrusive noise where their employees can go whenever they need to rest their ears. Because of this, an employee is exposed to less loud noise overall throughout the day. Employers might also want to think about just using noisy equipment at times of the day when there aren't many people on the job site.
For Occupational Noise Exposure Training, Advice, and Programs on Implementation, contact our team today to learn how we can make your workplace safer!