OSHA Overview: Occupational Noise Exposure

Noise-induced hearing loss has become one of the most widespread occupational health hazards. Not until recently have employers began to pay attention to problems associated with prolonged or excessive noise exposure.  One of the issues with noise exposure is that it’s often a gradual effect on the employee, and people don’t usually realize they are hearing differently until it’s already too late.  Poor hearing is similar to poor vision in that you often don’t know how poor it is until you go to correct it.

Because noise-induced hearing loss is such a big issue in many industries, the Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration has established noise exposure standards in order to protect the hearing of employees.  Here’s what you need to know in order to keep your employees safe and healthy when it comes to noise exposure.

According to OSHA standard 1910.95(a), the employer must provide protection against the effect of noise when sound levels exceed the following:

Duration per day, hours    Sound level dBA slow response

















When employees are subjected to sound exceeding the values in the table above, administrative or engineering controls should be utilized. If the controls fail to reduce sound levels within the table, the employer must provide personal protective equipment that reduces the sound levels.

Hearing Conservation Program

The employer must administer a continuing, effective hearing conservation program whenever employee noise exposures exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level of 85 decibels measured on the A scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent.  As part of the hearing conservation program, the employer must implement a monitoring program.  Monitoring is to be repeated whenever a change in production, process, equipment or controls increases noise exposures.

Within 6 months of an employee’s first exposure at or above the action level, the employer should establish a valid baseline audiogram against which subsequent audiograms can be compared.

Audiometric tests should be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician, or by a technician who is certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation, or who has satisfactorily demonstrated competence in administering audiometric examinations, obtaining valid audiograms, and properly using, maintaining and checking calibration and proper functioning of the audiometers being used.  This initial test should be done within 14 hours of the employee’s exposure to workplace noise.

Hearing Protectors

As discussed above, hearing protectors must be worn by all employees who are exposed to noise that exceeds the limits in the table.  Your staff should be given the opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitable hearing protectors provided by the employer.  The employer should then ensure proper initial fitting and provide training in the use and care of all hearing protectors provided to employees.


The employer must retain noise exposure measurement records for two years. The records should include the following: Name and job description of the employee, date of the audiogram, examiner’s name, date of the last calibration of the audiometer, and the employee’s most recent noise exposure measurement.

At MAC Incorporated, we put the safety and health of our employees first.  Since we’re a niche-based recruiting and staffing firm, specializing in the placement of engineering, maintenance, and operations management professionals, we understand the crucial role human beings play in the rate and quality of production output as well as the overall efficiency of asset utilization.  Check out our blog to stay up to date on the latest OSHA regulations or contact us today to see how we can provide customized staffing solutions for your organization.