Do you want to know what’s loud? CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, is said to be one of the loudest stadiums in sports. When the Seahawks hosted their rival the San Francisco 49’ers on December 14, 2014, the decibel level on the sidelines reached 97 dBA (according to 3M’s Noise NavigatorTM Sound Level Database). Similarly, a circular saw often reaches a decibel level of 103 dBA. While that raucous late season game is technically a once in a lifetime event, a construction worker may use a circular saw daily, exposing their ears to noise damage.
Unfortunately, many construction workers face the equivalent of an NFL sellout crowd’s worth of noise each day. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise each year. The results are far reaching, both from a personal and professional standpoint. According to OSHA, workers who have prolonged exposure to damaging noise are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and headaches as well as permanent hearing loss.
OSHA Noise Regulations
OSHA has put guidelines in place to protect construction workers from noise exposure. In short, engineering or administrative controls must be put in place if workers are exposed to noise at or above 85 dBA for eight hours or longer each day. If engineering or administrative controls don’t sufficiently reduce noise exposure, employers must provide hearing protection devices (HPDs) for employees.
Engineering and Administrative Controls
Prior to providing HPD’s, like earplugs and earmuffs, construction companies should make the following attempts to reduce noise exposure:
Engineering Controls: These are maneuvers designed to physically divert noise exposure from construction workers. An example of this is placing a barrier between employees and the source of the noise.
Administrative Controls: These are changes in policy enacted to protect employees. This may include, limiting the amount of time a worker is exposed to a noise source or running noisy machinery during hours where less employees are present.
Administrative and engineering controls are critical—both from a health and financial standpoint. Companies paid more than $1.5 million in penalties last year for not properly protecting employees from noise exposure.
If you are faced with an OSHA citation, your defense may be critical to your business. Trust an OSHA attorney to guide you through that process.
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.