By Grainger Editorial Staff 6/7/22
Exposure to a loud working environment can cause permanent hearing loss and lifelong ringing in the ears, so it’s important to limit exposure to dangerous noise. The regulations regarding noise exposure are clear—if the workplace is noisier than 85 decibels over an eight-hour, time-weighted average, hearing protection must be provided. However, the method of protecting workers from harmful noise is largely left up to the business.
Administrative or engineering controls are the preferred first steps for hearing protection, before using PPE. Consider isolating loud equipment in an acoustically insulated room, or substituting noise-reduced power tools or machinery in place of traditional versions.
If engineering controls are not adequate, PPE is the next option. The two types of hearing PPE are earplugs and earmuffs. Every piece of hearing PPE is given a noise reduction rating (NRR) that shows how much noise it will block if worn correctly. OSHA provides four methods to determine what NRR will be necessary to work safely in your workplace.
In extremely loud environments, you may need both earplugs and earmuffs. NIOSH recommends workers use “dual protection” (earmuffs over earplugs) when exposed to noise levels over 100 decibels throughout their shift.
For many workplaces, though, the level of protection offered by either earmuffs or earplugs will adequately protect workers’ hearing. Which one is right for you? Consider the following when choosing which will work best for your jobsite:
Of course, hearing protection doesn’t have to be either-or. It may be best to give workers a choice, letting them choose the most comfortable and convenient form of protection for themselves.
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.