A quick online search of hearing protection/headphones using the term, “OSHA-compliant” invariably returns a list of various devices offering different features, such as:

  • OSHA-compliant Bluetooth Hearing Protection
  • OSHA-compliant Professional Hearing Protection
  • OSHA-compliant Wireless Noise Reduction In-Ear Headphones
  • OSHA-compliant Noise Isolating Earbuds

The problem? There is no such thing as “OSHA-compliant” headphones. That’s according to OSHA, which warned about such “misleading” claims in a September Standard Interpretations letter sent to the agency by a construction industry employer.

“OSHA does not register, certify, approve, or otherwise endorse commercial or private sector entities, products, or services. Therefore, any such claims by a manufacturer are misleading,” wrote Patrick J. Kapust, Acting Director of the agency’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs.

No regulation against music, but...

As for using headphones to listen to music on construction sites, Kapust noted that there is no specific OSHA regulation that prohibits it, so it may be allowed “at managerial discretion.” However, he cautioned that listening to music while on the job “may produce a safety hazard by masking environmental sounds that need to be heard, especially on active construction sites where attention to moving equipment, heavy machinery, vehicle traffic, and safety warning signals may be compromised.”

It’s especially vital that workers be able to hear the movement of heavy equipment in their vicinity, since 75 percent of struck-by fatalities in the construction industry involve trucks or cranes.