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OSHA Hearing Requirements

    • Federal law sets standards for workplace noise.I hear nothing image by Valentin Mosichev from Fotolia.com

      An estimated 30 million Americans annually are exposed to hazardous noise on the job, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Along with hearing loss, this can create stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communication and contribute to injuries and accidents. So OSHA requires employers to enact engineering or administrative controls to eliminate or reduce hazardous noise levels.

    Noise Limit Is 85 decibels

    • OSHA's limit for workplace noise is 85 decibels, equal to an average factory or freight train, averaged over eight hours. So four hours exposure to 100 decibels, equal to a power lawn mower, must be balanced with four hours exposure to 70 decibels, equal to a vacuum cleaner. If noise exceeds that, employers are required to create a hearing conservation program.

    Hearing Conservation Program

    • The hearing conservation program must identify all affected employees and proper hearing protection. Monitoring can be done by work area or, if that not feasible, by representative individuals. The noise measurements must include all noise levels from 80 decibels to 130, whether continuous or not. Employees must be notified and monitoring must be repeated if workplace changes (such as equipment or processes) may expose additional employees to excessive noise.

    Testing Programs

    • If the average daily noise level exceeds 85 decibels, then employers must establish a no-cost testing program to measure employees' hearing over time and educate them about hearing loss and hearing protection. It should include a baseline test followed by annual tests to chart changes in hearing, a "standard threshold shift" (how much hearing loss is too much) and follow up procedures.

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