Noise Limits and Mandatory Hearing Protection
Is your workplace dangerously loud? Do you have to shout above the noise to make yourself heard? Do you have ringing in your ears for several hours? Do you have difficulty hearing normal sounds for several hours?
People differ in their sensitivity to noise but ear protection is necessary and mandatory according to the Occupational Safety and Hazards Administration (OSHA) standards. Occupational noise is important to OSHA and for that reason, our OSHA lawyers provide input on worksite noise limits and mandatory hearing protection for employees.
What’s the OSHA Noise Limit?
According to OSHA, noise is considered hazardous when it reaches 85 dB and 90 dB. Workers can be exposed to up to 90 dB over an eight-hour workday period. However, even at 85 dB, employers must implement controls to reduce exposure and protect hearing health. If the noise level at your job site is consistently high, invest in industry earplugs or earmuffs.
Annual audiometric testing informs the employer if a worker’s hearing is average, stable, or if the hearing has gotten worse. If noise levels exceed 85 dB (i.e. power lawnmower, motorcycle, or food blender) over an eight-hour period, employees must receive audiometric tests once a year.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Employers of work environments with noise levels higher than 85 dB are legally required to provide employees with protective measures, free hearing exams, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The PPE standards for noise exposure include wearing earplugs or earmuffs. According to OSHA, wearing cotton balls in your ears is not an acceptable form of PPE.
Should I Wear Earplugs or Earmuffs?
Earplugs and earmuffs worn correctly reduce noise levels from 15 to 30 dB, but choosing the right ear protection depends on the noise levels you are exposed to. Earplugs are usually worn for low-frequency noise and earmuffs are typically worn for reducing high-frequency noise. Depending on individual preference, earmuffs may provide a more comfortable fit and protection than earplugs. Earplugs and earmuffs control noise, they don’t eliminate it. Therefore, wear them the entire time you’re exposed to hazardous noise, and in extremely noisy conditions, feel free to wear both earplugs and earmuffs.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.