Listen Up: Protecting Your Workers from Hazardous Noise

Noise is one of, if not the most common workplace hazard. OSHA reports that at least 22 million workers are exposed to damaging noise at work each year. Not only can noise permanently damage an employee’s hearing, but it is generally very costly for employers to pay compensation claims for occupational hearing loss. For those reasons, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that employees exposed to a time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 decibels A-weighted (dBA) for an 8-hour shift shall be put into a hearing conservation program as lined out in 29 CFR §1910.95.  At W&M, we help employers evaluate their high noise exposure areas, monitor employee exposure, develop hearing conservation programs, and help with regulatory compliance. While in the field, we have noticed a common problem with noise monitoring activities conducted by employers. Many employers like to do their own noise monitoring, which is a viable option that
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Can you hear me now?

That tagline from the phone company was omnipresent a few years ago and still gets some play now and again. But noise in the workplace is a serious thing. OSHA’s (the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 decibels (dBA) in an eight-hour day is equivalent to a “Boiler Room” and 10 dBA greater than a Freight Train 100’ away. But, is that level of noise too much? The European Union has been recommending much lower exposure levels based on studies that show that millions of Europeans have suffered irreversible hearing loss. I read the other day that noise contamination is the new secondhand smoke (I thought sitting was the new secondhand smoke). This observation was based on data that shows hearing loss is pervasive in our society and is, much like smoking, preventable. We are frequently asked to conduct noise surveys in the workplace
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