If you’re accustomed to ignoring surveys offered through everything from sales receipts to emails to online pop-ups, here’s one it pays to lend an ear to.

Noise, or undesirable sound, is one of the most common health problems to be found in many workplaces. Practically all workplaces directly involved in manufacturing, construction, or mining create noise as a by-product. While this cannot be totally eliminated, the negative health effects of noise can be limited by wearing the proper personal protective equipment and, in some instances, implementing engineering and/or administrative controls.

Noise can also be detrimental to job performance, increase fatigue, and cause irritability. Perhaps the most widely known harmful result from exposure is noise-induced hearing loss. Such losses can be either temporary or permanent; the extent of the damage is dependent mainly upon the intensity and length of exposure.

In the early 1980s, OSHA announced a hearing conservation amendment (29 CFR 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure Standard) that requires hearing conservation programs for all employees exposed to noise on an eight-hour, time weighted average (TWA) in excess of 85 decibels measured on an A-weighted scale (85 dBA). The permissible exposure limit is 90 dBA for an eight-hour TWA. It’s worth noting that continued exposure to more than 85 decibels (dBA) of noise may cause gradual, but permanent, damage to hearing.

The OSHA hearing conservation program for industry has five parts. They are:
-Noise Monitoring: Sound levels must be measured to determine the degree of potential employee exposure and what safeguards may be needed.
-Hearing Testing: All employees in a hearing conservation program must be tested annually.
-Employee Training and Education: Employees in a hearing conservation program must be trained every year on hearing protection.
-Hearing Protectors: Hearing protection devices should be made available to all employees according to the noise risks identified.
-Record Keeping: A company must maintain records on sound level results, equipment calibration results, and hearing test records of employees, along with its educational activities.

Fortunately, a noise survey of a workplace environment can be used identify where high noise levels are most likely to occur, leading to a more efficient hearing conservation program.

Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. can provide this service, which can be used to help identify employees who need to be included in a noise control program and whether to implement engineering controls to reduce exposure. Need assistance with preliminary engineering control selection? Give us a call. We can even assist third party engineers with design guidance – telling them what is needed and let them do the design work.

As always, thanks for listening!