OSHA Standards for Noise Levels in the Workplace

Written by david clair
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OSHA Standards for Noise Levels in the Workplace
Hearing protection must be provided to employees exposed to hazardous noise levels. (safety helmet image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Association (OSHA) has established guidelines regarding noise levels in the workplace. These guidelines are intended to protect the hearing of the workers. Preventing hearing loss is an important part of workplace safety. Rules surrounding noise levels are documented in section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA standards.

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The level of noise in the workplace allowed under OSHA guidelines is measured in decibels. The decibel level permitted is based on the duration of the noise per day. For a full eight-hour day, the decibel level cannot exceed 90; for six hours, the limit is 92; for four hours, the maximum is 95 decibels; for three hours, the limit is 97 decibels; for two hours, the maximum is 100 decibels; for one and one-half hours, the maximum is 102; for one hour, the limit is 105; for one-quarter hour, the maximum is 110 and for anything less than one-quarter hour, the limit is 115 decibels. When the daily noise exposure extends over two or more periods in a given day, the duration of each period should be combined to determine the maximum noise exposure.


Any employees exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels or more must be provided with hearing protection by their employer. It is the employer's responsibility to make sure the workers are using the hearing protection equipment.

Hearing Tests

Employees who are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace should have testing available to them at the employer's expense. The testing must be performed by a licensed or certified otolaryngologist, audiologist, physician or a technician who is certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation. Alternatively, it may be done by someone who has demonstrated competence in giving hearing tests properly with the appropriate equipment.


Employers who have workers exposed to hazardous noise levels should train their employees and ensure that the workers participate in the training program. The training should cover the effects of hazardous noise on hearing, information and instructions about hearing protectors, the purpose of hearing tests and an explanation of the testing procedures.

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