When is hearing protection required?

Keeping employees safe is a top priority for any good company. While some types of workplace safety are obvious, such as chemical safety or slip and fall prevention, others aren’t so easy to spot. One example of a workplace risk that is often overlooked is threats to people’s hearing. Many factories and other environments can be very loud, which puts the hearing and overall health of an employee at risk. Understanding when hearing protection is required is an important task for any safety manager.

OSHA & Hearing Protection 

When establishing requirements related to hearing protection, OSHA uses something called a Time Weighed Average, or TWA. This is a measurement of noise levels in an environment. When the level gets above 85dB, the employees must wear hearing protection. Even at lower levels it is highly recommended that they use hearing protection, especially if they will be in a loud environment for extended periods of time.

Understanding OSHA Hearing Protection Requirements

When it is determined that the noise in an area exceeds 85dB the employees will need to wear hearing protection. The type of protection provided can vary from situation to situation, but it must be sufficient to reduce their noise exposure to an acceptable level. Hearing protection devices are rated based on the NRR, which is a calculation that shows how much of a noise reduction a particular device offers.

The louder the environment, the higher the NRR a device must have in order to meet OSHA hearing protection requirements. For places where the noise is right at 85dB, simple earplugs may be sufficient. When an area gets significantly louder, it will become necessary to get the earmuff style devices, which are proven to block out much more noise. Of course, within each category there are multiple different levels of protection. All employers must provide the proper level of protection, and ensure employees are using the devices, at all times.


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