Noise laws & safety compliance analysis

Noise: What you need to know

According to OSHA, approximately 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace each year. The incidence of noise-induced hearing loss can be reduced or eliminated through the successful application of engineering and administrative controls and hearing conservation programs.

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Federal regulations are very specific in their coverage of the measures required to control noise exposures and protect the hearing of employees.

Hearing conservation program. Whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dB, the employer must administer a hearing conservation program and a monitoring program must be developed and instituted.

Hearing protectors. Employers must provide hearing protectors to all workers exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dB or above. This requirement ensures that employees have access to protectors before they experience any hearing loss. Employees must wear the hearing protectors for any period exceeding 6 months from the time they are first exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dB or above until they receive their baseline audiograms, if they have incurred standard threshold shifts (STSs) that demonstrate they are susceptible to noise, or if they are exposed to noise over the permissible exposure limit of 90 dB over an 8-hour TWA.

Administrative and engineering controls. When employees are subjected to sound exceeding 90 dB over 8 hours or other noise/time thresholds listed in Table G-16 of the rule at 29 CFR 1910.95(a), employers must implement feasible administrative or engineering controls. The implementation of engineering controls and administrative programs is the principal means employers have to comply with regulations. ...

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