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Hearing Conservation Program

Excessive noise levels may permanently or temporarily damage a person's hearing. Whenever possible, employees should reduce noise levels to an acceptable level. The following table outlines OSHA limits for acceptable noise exposure indicated as decibels (dB).

Duration/Day (Hours) Sound Level (dB)
8 90
6 92
4 95
3 97
2 100
1 1/2 102
1 105
1/2 110
¼ or less 115

Hearing loss can be permanent — wear protective equipment when noise levels are high.

Before using personal protective equipment, such as ear plugs or muffs, to reduce noise exposure, try to reduce noise levels by changing work procedures. Maintenance practices such as the following can reduce noise levels:

  • Replacing worn or loose machine parts
  • Performing high-noise operations during hours when people are less likely to be affected
  • Maintaining and lubricating equipment to eliminate rattles and squeaks

The following table illustrates various noise levels:

Example Sound Level
Whisper 10 dB
Quiet Office 30 dB
Street Sounds 70 dB
Factory 80-90 dB
Sander 85 dB
Subway 90 dB
Pneumatic Drill 100 dB
Artillery/Car Horn 120 dB

Engineering controls, such as the following, can also reduce noise levels:

  • Enclosing noisy conveyors

Areas that may require hearing protection include machine shops, the power plant, etc. Observe all warning signs and wear hearing protection whenever necessary. Do not interfere with, remove, or modify noise abatement equipment. Keep all equipment properly maintained, and report any malfunctions immediately. Contact your Safety and Health Management Office if you have any questions or concerns about the noise level in your workspace. Appropriate noise level survey and hearing tests may be required.