Noise and vibration are both fluctuations in the pressure of air (or other media) which affect the human body. Vibrations that are detected by the human ear are classified as sound. We use the term 'noise' to indicate unwanted sound.
Hearing conservation strives to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard their hearing.
What are the hazards associated with noise?
Exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noise. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
Loud noise can create physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communication and concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals. The effects of noise induced hearing loss can be profound, limiting your ability to hear high frequency sounds, understand speech, and seriously impairing your ability to communicate.
What can I do to protect myself?
Whether at work or away from work, when working with loud equipment (e.g., leaf blowers, chain saws) or hunting with firearms, be sure to wear the appropriate type of hearing protection.
Employers are required to implement a hearing conservation program when employees are exposed to noise at a level equivalent to 85 decibels as an 8-hour time-weighted average. This includes initial and annual audiometric testing to enable hearing loss to be identified early and to monitor the effectiveness of the employer's program.
What resources are available to assist employers?
Safety and Health Programs
An example hearing conservation program is available which should be customized to fit the working conditions of the workplace. In addition, a PPE hazard assessment can be utilized to identify areas or tasks that require hearing protection.
Training and Outreach Services
The noise exposure and personal protective equipment presentations can be used to assist with employee training. In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).
A-Z Safety and Health Topics
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
What standards apply?
OSH has adopted the following standards for occupational exposure to noise in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
29 CFR 1910.95 - occupational noise exposure
29 CFR 1910.132 - personal protective equipment, general requirements
29 CFR 1926.52 - occupational noise exposure
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
Industry Guide 48 - OSHA Construction Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to occupational noise exposure in construction.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to occupational noise exposure in general industry.
- Field Operations Manual Chapter 15 - Industrial Hygiene Compliance provides citation guidance for the occupational noise exposure standard.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to email@example.com or by calling 919-707-7876.