To Revise or Not Revise? Reexamining OSHA’s Noise Standard-February 2011

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

February 2011

IN THIS ISSUE: To Revise or Not Revise? Reexamining OSHA’s Noise Standard

Recently, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration began reexamining the noise standard.    The original standard required employers to limit noise exposure through engineering or administrative controls.  It also required that personal protective equipment be issued to employees until controls were put in place.  The regulation’s purpose was to guard against hearing loss. 

 In 1981, following more than 10 years of debate, OSHA issued the Hearing Conservation Amendment.  This move resulted in three key changes to the noise standard:the minimum regulated sound level was lowered to 85 decibels, 2) employers were required to perform hearing tests, and 3) personal protective equipment that limited employees exposure to noise could be used in place of engineering or administrative controls. 

“Until OSHA changed its policy three decades ago, personal noise protection equipment was considered a temporary solution,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP, of Occusafe, Inc. “Personal protective equipment, especially noise protection, has limitations and may not provide adequate protection against hearing loss. It’s always more desirable to lessen or eliminate hazards, so even without OSHA enforcement, other controls be implemented at 85 to 90 decibels.”

How can noise exposure be reduced?

  • Conduct noise testing to determine sources of employee exposure.  Retest on a routine basis.
  • Implement changes in work practices and equipment maintenance.
  • Contact manufacturers or companies that use similar equipment for recommendations on noise control.
  • Enclose noise sources.
  • Install materials that absorb or reflect noise.
  • Document all actions conducted to show that controls are in place.

“Whether OSHA’s policy changes or not, employers should still install better noise controls,” emphasizes Ticker. “Implementing controls to limit exposure to any other workplace hazard is required by OSHA, and it should be required of noise as well.”

As of this publication, OSHA has decided not to make any changes to the hearing conservation standard.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or (303) 219-6973 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate andcontrol hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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