Decibel Danger Zone

Listen up and protect your employees’ hearing

Of all of the preventable risks in the workplace, one of the most commonly disregarded is the exposure to noise. According to the American Speech Language-Hearing Association, 35% of all cases of hearing loss in the U.S. are wholly or partially attributable to noise exposure. If you have made no effort to assess the noise levels at your workplace, or if employees routinely disregard company hearing protection policies, listen up! Your workers and your business are being exposed to unnecessary risks. A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) is interested in helping you assess the noise levels to ensure employees’ hearing is not endangered. This will help protect your company against possible litigation, workers’ compensation claims, and OSHA fines and citations.

Part of the problem is the misconception that loud sound isn’t dangerous unless you feel pain in your ears. Most people begin experiencing pain at about 120-140 dB (decibels), but hearing loss results when noise levels are as low as 85 dB, particularly if the exposure is constant. This has implications for your employees, particularly those who work around power equipment, or are exposed to loud music or other loud sounds.

Contact our office if you have any concerns about your employees’ exposure to loud sounds. If requirements for wearing hearing protection have been lax in the past, now is the time to make changes in your policies. A PEO will help assure that your company hearing protection guidelines meet, or even exceed OSHA’s guidelines.

Listen up and protect your employees’ hearing:

Decibel level of some common noises:

  • Normal conversation ‘ 60-70 dB
  • Dial tone of telephone ‘ 80 dB
  • City Traffic–85 dB
  • Pneumatic riveter @ 4 ft.–125 dB
  • Power mower–107 dB
  • Amplified rock music @ 4-6 ft. ‘120 dB

Sound is measured in decibels with 0 dB (decibels) being the weakest sound heard.

OSHA’s guidelines

The maximum exposure time for unprotected ears per day is 8 hours at 90 dB.

For every 5 dB increase in volume, the maximum exposure time is cut in half:

  • 95 dB ‘ 4 hours
  • 100 dB ‘ 2 hours
  • 110 dB – 30 minutes
  • 120 dB ‘ 7.5 minutes

Feeney, Sheila Anne. “Noise May Be Hazardous to your Health.” New York Daily News.

Roland-Mieszkowski, Marek. “Common Misconceptions about Hearing.” Digital Recordings.

“California Workers’ Compensation Reform.” SHRM Online.