OSHA Guidelines

OSHA Guidelines

How loud is too loud?

What is a loud place?  Some environments, such as airports or construction sites, are obviously too loud, and can have harmful effects on hearing.  However, even mowing the lawn and using common household power tools can expose the ear to damaging sound levels, especially over an extended period.  So what exactly is too loud and what are the national standards? Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards The generally accepted threshold for the highest safe level of noise exposure is 85 decibel (dB), a ceiling that originated with government guidelines established for workplace safety. The standards, which originated in the 1970s and were modified over time, hold employers accountable for monitoring noise levels and protecting workers from unsafe noise exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration established guidelines for sound thresholds (in decibels) to which a worker may safely be exposed over a period of time (a typical workday). Audiologists and Ear, Nose and Throat physicians have adopted this standard.

Hearing Protection during employment:

OSHA Standard 1910.95: Under this Occupational Noise Exposure standard, employers in general industry, such as manufacturing, utilities, and service sectors, must monitor noise levels and identify employees exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels (dB) over an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). A time-weighted average shortens exposure times for higher decibel ratings. For employees exposed to such levels, the employer must provide protection in some manner, either by controlling the volume of the environment or by providing personal protective equipment. In addition, employers must provide affected workers with annual hearing tests in accordance with specific guidelines. OSHA recommends the use of hearing protection as sound approaches Beginning of Danger Zone. Common sound level measurements are also listed below for comparison and environmental awareness.

Exposure dB Sound
Instantaneous permanent damage 140+ Shotgun, rifle, jet plane takeoff
Less than one second 130 jackhammer, heavy industry
Less than ten seconds Threshold of pain 120 Rock concert
1.5 minutes 110 Power tools, snowmobile
15 minutes 100 Chainsaw, motorcycle
2.5 hours 90 Lawn Mower
8 hours 85 Beginning of Danger Zone
Prolonged exposure to noise levels 85dB and higher can result in permanent hearing loss. 80 City Traffic
70 Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer
60 Office, Sewing Machine
50 Normal Conversation
40 Refrigerator
30 Whisper
20 Rustling Leaves
Common noise levels (dB), and their effect upon hearing. 10 Breathing
0 Threshold of normal hearing

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