Safety Articles

Article # 13101

Listen Up!
OSHA's Requirements for Hearing Protection are Loud and Clear

Noise, or unwanted sound, is one of the most pervasive occupational health problems. It's a by-product of many industrial processes, and exposure to high levels of noise causes hearing loss and other harmful health effects.

More than nine million workers are exposed to sound levels 85 dB and above in a variety of industries including manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, military, mining, and construction. OSHA says that more than one million workers in manufacturing alone have developed job-related hearing impairment.

OSHA has heard enough.
As part of its hearing conservation amendment (29 C.F.R. 1910.95 "Occupational Noise Exposure"), OSHA requires hearing conservation programs for all employees whose noise exposure equals or exceeds an eight-hour time-weighted average of 85dB.

OSHA's program is carefully designed to protect most workers with significant occupational noise exposure from suffering hearing impairment, even if they are subject to such noise exposure over their entire working lifetimes.

"To make this goal a reality," says Bob Bakon, senior loss control for ITT Hartford, the most important parts of a company's hearing protection program, in addition to trying to eliminate or reduce the noise, are training, education, and hearing testing. Employees must know exactly what will happen if they do not wear their hearing protection."

Another key factor, according to Bakon, is having the right protection for the job. The protective device must reduce the noise exposure to an acceptable level," he says. "Annual testing of employees exposed to noise greater than 85 dB will verify the effectiveness of protective devices."

According to OSHA, hearing protectors must adequately reduce the severity of the noise level for each employee's work environment. If the workplace noise levels increase, employees must be given more effective protectors.