Managing workplace noise hazards

Man wearing protective hearing equipment

Workers in various industries are often exposed to high noise levels; the noise can be produced by machinery, equipment, or even other people. When levels increase, exposed workers can be at risk of experiencing hearing damage. Employers must take the necessary steps to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control workplace health hazards.

By acknowledging the presence of hazardous noise, businesses are already anticipating potential health risks to mitigate worker illnesses. To further examine the risks, employers can seek industrial hygiene services. Industrial hygienists are professionals that are trained in managing health hazards, and they can assist businesses with identifying hazards in the facility and performing noise sampling tests to gather data about employee exposures.


Noise sampling tests

After noise sampling tests have been conducted, the results should be compared to the permissible exposure limit (PEL) set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the legal limit for exposure of an employee to a hazard. The current PEL is 90 dBA for all workers for an 8-hour day. If the results show that noise levels approach or exceed this limit, then safety controls must be implemented to protect workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) hierarchy of safety controls outlines how hazards can be addressed from the most effective method to the least, as shown in the graphic below.

If an employer is unable to eliminate or substitute the noise, then they can implement other controls, such as installing material noise barriers, developing a formal Hearing Conservation Program, or providing personal protective equipment for workers. In any case, industrial hygienists can help businesses assess and manage health hazards to keep workers safe.




By: Libby Burgher
Loss Control Associate


References

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3143/OSHA3143.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/default.html

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/index.html

Man wearing protective hearing equipment
This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.
Was this helpful?