Services/Industrial Noise Testing for OSHA 

 

  According to OSHA, every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are exposed to hazardous levels of occupational noise. Noise exceeding recommended levels in the workplace can have potentially permanent effects on hearing, causing significant hearing loss or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Beyond these serious hearing implications, a noisy workplace can also have other physiological effects on stress levels, sleep patterns, and many other body systems. OSHA sets legal limits on noise in the workplace, the maximum recommended level of noise not thought to cause hearing damage is 85dB per 8 hour workday. In 1981, OSHA required all workplaces that exposed employees to 85dB or higher noise over an 8 hour work day to implement a Hearing Conservation program. A Hearing Conservation Program requires employers to conduct regular noise measurements, to provide yearly hearing exams, and to provide adequate hearing protection. Otoscience Labs provides an occupational noise consulting service to employers seeking to monitor noise levels in the workplace for OSHA compliance. Occupational Safety and Health Standard No. 1910.5. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How common is hearing loss as a result of occupational noise?

Every year, approximately 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous levels of occupational noise. In addition, another 9 million workers are exposed to ototoxic chemicals annually. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing sector accounts for the largest number of cases of occupational hearing loss. More than 72% of cases are from workers in the manufacturing sector. This is no small number, considering the manufacturing sector employs more than 16 million people, accounting for approximately 13% of the American workforce. 

2. How does workplace noise affect you?

Excessive noise in the workplace can make concentrating on tasks and communicating with coworkers significantly more difficult, thus lowering productivity. Occupational noise also serves as chronic stressor to workers and can have many negative effects on overall health, including; fatigue, irritability, interrupted sleep, high blood pressure, and many other physiological signs of stress. 

3. What are acceptable noise levels?

OSHA sets legal limits on the level of noise a worker can be exposed to over the course of an 8 hour work day. This limit is set at 85db with a 5db exchange rate. This means that as the noise increases by 5db, the time allowed in the work space should be cut in half. For example, if the sound level increases from 85db to 90db, the time spent in that area should decrease from 8 hours to 4 hours. 

4. What is required of employers?

In 1981, OSHA enacted requirements of businesses in the general industry sector (manufacturing, etc.) to create a Hearing Conservation Program in an effort to protect the hearing of workers in potentially hazardous situations. Hearing Conservation Programs require employers to measure noise levels, provide free hearing protection and annual hearing exams, and adequate training.  

5. How can occupational noise be reduced?

There are a variety of options to reduce the noise in the workplace, some of these options include; ensuring proper maintenance and lubrication of noisy machinery, providing a solid barrier between the noise source and the workers, limiting worker exposure to noisy machinery, and providing adequate hearing protection to all employees. 

Resources

1. OSHA Occupational Noise Information page:

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/#warning

2. The American Speech and Hearing Association

http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Noise/

3. PDF Bureau of Labor Statistics Article on Occupational Noise

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2012/07/art4full.pdf

4. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Occupational Noise Fact Sheet

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/stats.html

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