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Environmental Health & Safety

Noise in the Workplace

Have you ever thought about your favorite sound? What is it? A favorite song? Wind rustling the leaves of a tree? Your loved one's voice? What would life be like without that sound? It's hard to imagine.

Our sense of hearing is precious, but it's not something most people think about. Hearing is also a delicate sense that can easily be damaged by exposure to excessive noise.

Do you work in noisy areas or perform tasks that cause loud noises? If so, you may be at risk for hearing damage. How much noise is too much? A rule of thumb is that, if you have to raise your voice significantly to communicate with someone an arm's length away, it may be too noisy.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established limits on the amount of noise to which workers can be exposed. If you are exposed to sound levels of 85 decibels (time-weighted average over an 8-hour day), you must be in the University's Hearing Conservation Program. That means the sound levels you are exposed to must be evaluated and you must have your hearing evaluated annually by audiogram. If you are exposed to sound levels of 90 decibels or higher, you must be provided with hearing protection equipment (ear plugs, ear muffs, etc.), trained in its proper use, and you are required to use that equipment whenever you might be exposed to damaging sound levels.

It is important to understand that, just because an activity is enjoyable, that doesn't mean the associated noise levels are safe. Many pastimes outside of work expose people to very high noise levels: playing a musical instrument, shooting firearms, working with home shop equipment such as table saws, driving loud motor vehicles, attending rock concerts or sporting events. The noise levels encountered in these activities can easily approach harmful levels.

Nobody is immune to noise-related hearing loss. If you have any doubts, protect yourself. Hearing protection can save your sense of hearing. Environmental Health & Safety is available to evaluate noise exposure and recommend ways to prevent hearing loss. Please call us at 275-3241 if you need assistance.

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 3/28/2018. Disclaimer.