The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was a significant step forward for workers’ rights in the U.S. because it established clear guidelines and regulations for keeping employees safe on the jobsite. One of the major parts of these new regulations pertained to workers’ protections against hearing loss caused by workplace noise exposure. The hearing loss policies can be found in Appendix B of the Occupational Noise Exposure section, and are outlined below.
Any sound over 85 dB can cause hearing damage after more than eight hours of exposure. For reference, this is about the volume of passing highway traffic. As the number of decibels increases, the amount of exposure tolerated before damage occurs decreases.
- If an employee is exposed to eight or more hours of noise over 85 dB, the employer must implement a hearing conservation program for each employee, as well as monitor all continuous noises between 80 and 130 decibels with audiometric testing.
- Employees must be educated about the effects of noise-induced hearing loss.
- Within six months of beginning work in an environment with unsafe sound levels, employees must receive a baseline hearing test. They should be provided with a yearly hearing test free of charge each year thereafter to monitor future hearing changes.
- For employees exposed to sounds over 85 dB, hearing protection should be provided by the employer.
- Employers must provide training each year about the importance of hearing protection to employees exposed to sounds over 85 dB for more than eight hours a day.
- Employers must keep records of their employees’ noise exposure levels.
OSHA entitles workers to a safe workplace free from dangerous sound levels. Because of OSHA, workers have the right to:
- Request OSHA inspections if they feel their employers are not complying with safety requirements.
- Receive training about their rights, the hazards of noise in the workplace and effective ways to protect hearing.
- Exercise their rights without fear of retaliation from the employer.
- Obtain copies of their audiograms and health care records.
To schedule a hearing test with an expert audiologist, call LeMay Hearing & Balance to schedule an appointment today.