Understanding OSHA’s Noise Exposure Standards and Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, exists to keep employees safe and healthy on the job. In many industries, risk is part of the job. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take precautions against hazards. In high-risk industries, employers and employees alike must take safety seriously. Otherwise, you risk severe injury or even death on the job. That said, workplaces must follow many OSHA regulations to continue operating as functional businesses. Sometimes, these standards and regulations can get a little confusing or complicated. We are here to aid in understanding OSHA’s noise exposure standards and regulations.

Why Noise Exposure?

The first thing on your mind when more comprehensively understanding OSHA’s noise exposure standards and regulations might be: why? Many still don’t realize that loud or excessive noise can harm workers. However, noise exposure is a risk that affects many industries. Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and is one of the most common work-related illnesses. Twenty-two million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels yearly in the United States. Because we can’t automatically see the decline in a person’s sound health, it often goes overlooked. These are just a few reasons why sound health and noise-induced hearing loss should be on your radar as a business owner.

As you may already know, auditory nerve damage is a massive blow to a person’s health. A person who experiences noise-induced hearing loss might have communication issues in everyday life. This can lead to difficulty creating and maintaining relationships with others. Ultimately, this means that hearing loss can lead to poor mental health. Additionally, those with poor sound health may experience cognitive decline, heart issues, and tinnitus. Luckily, noise-induced hearing loss can almost always be prevented. Following OSHA’s standards can help you retain employees and keep them productive.

Workplace Noise Levels

To begin understanding OSHA’s noise exposure standards and regulations, you first need to understand how noise affects your hearing. Loud noise affects the auditory nerve system. Damage to the inner ear in this manner tends to be permanent. So, to begin complying with OSHA’s noise exposure regulations, you need to know your workplace’s noise levels.

Several tools are at your disposal to measure the sound level in any given work environment. They include octave band analyzers, sound level meters, and noise dosimeters. However, one indication that workplace noise levels are too high is if you have to shout to talk to someone nearby. Noise levels over 85 decibels can damage your hearing faster if exposed for long periods. This is why employers that expose workers to 85 decibels over eight hours must implement a hearing conservation program. These programs help workers understand how to protect themselves from occupational hearing loss and promote sound health. Protective equipment like earmuffs, ear plugs, acoustic foams, and more can help prevent auditory nerve damage and hearing loss.

How to Implement a Hearing Conservation Program

After more deeply understanding OSHA’s noise exposure standards and regulations, here’s what you should do next. Noise might be an inevitable part of your job. For example, noise is a significant hazard on many construction sites. Construction workers often use loud equipment that might drill, clatter, crash, or even beep repeatedly. While some level of exposure might be inevitable, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. After all, employees with their hearing intact tend to be more receptive to directions. Plus, safe working conditions have been linked to higher overall productivity and business profits.

The solution to noise in the workplace isn’t just wearing and using protective equipment. An employer needs to consider noise and sound levels when purchasing equipment. It’s also important to keep machinery updated and maintained.

Similarly, it’s essential to contain noise the same way you would any other hazard. For example, welders use curtains to prevent the negative effect of sparks, flash burns, and UV light from affecting bystanders. There are similar systems on the market that can protect against sound, including:

  • Fiberglass panels

  • Acoustic screens

  • Ceiling baffles

  • Acoustic foams

  • Vibration damper compounds

  • Full vinyl rolls

There are also some administrative efforts that can help expose the least amount of people possible to industrial noise in the workplace. For instance, you can make sure to schedule the use of noisy machines during less busy shifts. Additionally, you can move the noise away from areas where most employees work. It’s also important to provide quiet spaces in a workspace for a worker to recuperate after operating noisy machinery. Overall, your hearing conservation program should prevent initial hearing loss on the job and preserve remaining hearing in employees. It should also provide workers with a sense of awareness when it comes to loud noise in the workplace. The better educated your workers are on this topic, the better they can ultimately protect themselves. Prioritizing the safety of your employees guarantees a better work environment for everyone.

Find the Best Noise Control Systems

If excessive noise is a problem in your workplace, we have the solution for you at Singer Safety in Chicago. We have been a leader in industrial barrier safety equipment since 1950. As a pioneer in noise control products during the 50s and 60s, we have the best products on the market for you. When it comes to safety, invest in the best. For more information about our noise control products, browse the rest of our website today.

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