14Jul 2017

Ask the Expert – Maintaining Safe Noise Levels at Your Workplace

Question:  What is noise exposure? Is there a Cal/OSHA regulation regarding noise exposure?

Answer:  Noise exposure is a combination of sound levels (expressed in decibels) and the length of time a person is exposed to those sound levels. Exposure to high noise levels can cause permanent hearing damage and short term exposure to loud noise(s) can cause temporary hearing impairment (ears feeling stuffy) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus).

The Cal/OSHA regulation states that if employees are exposed to average sound levels equal to or exceeding 85 decibels over an eight-hour time period, a hearing conservation program is required.

The regulation also calls for employers to implement feasible control measures to lower the noise level—and if that does not work, to provide appropriate hearing protection such as ear plugs or ear muffs and hearing exams for affected workers.

Your employees can help you determine if the work place is too loud. If they’re complaining about the noise, show signs of hearing loss, or cannot conduct a conversation without shouting—these are signs that your workplace may be too loud and that it’s time to test the noise levels.

To get an accurate reading, a noise dosimeter or a sound level meter is used to measure the amount of noise at your workplace. Your workers’ compensation carrier or insurance brokerage may offer this service, or you could perform the testing yourself.

Noise dosimeters and sound level meters are available for rent or purchase both online or by visiting a safety equipment retailer.

Find more information about workplace noise levels at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/Title8/sb7g15a105.html

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