Throughout 2014, ISHN will report in each issue on one of the 12 most frequently cited OSHA standards, for fiscal year 2013, ending September 30, 2013.

$1,127,124  Total penalty amount proposed by OSHA for violations of the occupational noise standard and hearing conservation amendment 1910.95 (October 2012 through September 2013) including engineering and administrative controls, use of hearing protective devices (HPDs), employee education and training, noise monitoring, audiometric testing, and recordkeeping.

781  Number of total citations

485  Number of total inspections

Most penalized industries

Wood Product Manufacturing — $184,834

Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing — $174,848

Primary Metal Manufacturing — $115,567

Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing — $103,661

Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing — $74,965

21,200  hearing loss cases – Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012

30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise every year — OSHA

125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss since 2004 — BLS

Warning signs

Noise may be a problem in your workplace if:

1 You hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work.

2 You have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm’s length away.

3 You experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.

Where it’s the loudest

Based on hearing loss cases per 10,000 workers

  • Fiber can, tube, drum, and similar products manufacturing — 110.7
  • Metal can manufacturing — 105.7
  • Coated paper bag and pouch manufacturing — 85.4
  • Rendering and meat byproduct processing — 74.1
  • Metal can, box, and other metal container (light gauge) manufacturing — 70.3
  • Industrial and commercial fan and blower manufacturing — 69.3
  • Animal (except poultry) slaughtering — 68.9
  • Iron and steel forging — 64.3
  • Truck trailer manufacturing — 60.4
  • Aluminum extruded product manufacturing – 52.5
  • Other nonferrous foundries (except die-casting) — 48.1
  • Iron foundries — 47.6

What the standard requires (partial requirements):


When employees are subjected to sound exceeding those listed in Table G-16, (beginning with 8-hour exposure above 90 dBA on down to 15 minutes or less at 115 dBA) feasible administrative or engineering controls shall be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels within the levels of Table G-16, personal protective equipment shall be provided and used to reduce sound levels within the levels of the table.


“Hearing conservation program.”


The employer shall administer a continuing, effective hearing conservation program, as described in paragraphs (c) through (o) of this section, whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent. For purposes of the hearing conservation program, employee noise exposures shall be computed in accordance with appendix A and Table G-16a, and without regard to any attenuation provided by the use of personal protective equipment.


For purposes of paragraphs (c) through (n) of this section, an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or a dose of fifty percent shall also be referred to as the action level.




When information indicates that any employee’s exposure may equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels, the employer shall develop and implement a monitoring program.


The sampling strategy shall be designed to identify employees for inclusion in the hearing conservation program and to enable the proper selection of hearing protectors.


Where circumstances such as high worker mobility, significant variations in sound level, or a significant component of impulse noise make area monitoring generally inappropriate, the employer shall use representative personal sampling to comply with the monitoring requirements of this paragraph unless the employer can show that area sampling produces equivalent results.


All continuous, intermittent and impulsive sound levels from 80 decibels to 130 decibels shall be integrated into the noise measurements.


Monitoring shall be repeated whenever a change in production, process, equipment or controls increases noise exposures to the extent that:


Additional employees may be exposed at or above the action level; or


“Employee notification.” The employer shall notify each employee exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels of the results of the monitoring.


“Audiometric testing program.”


The employer shall establish and maintain an audiometric testing program as provided in this paragraph by making audiometric testing available to all employees whose exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels.


The program shall be provided at no cost to employees.


Audiometric tests shall be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician, or by a technician who is certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation, or who has satisfactorily demonstrated competence in administering audiometric examinations, obtaining valid audiograms, and properly using, maintaining and checking calibration and proper functioning of the audiometers being used. A technician who operates microprocessor audiometers does not need to be certified. A technician who performs audiometric tests must be responsible to an audiologist, otolaryngologist or physician.


“Baseline audiogram.”


Within 6 months of an employee’s first exposure at or above the action level, the employer shall establish a valid baseline audiogram against which subsequent audiograms can be compared.


Testing to establish a baseline audiogram shall be preceded by at least 14 hours without exposure to workplace noise. Hearing protectors may be used as a substitute for the requirement that baseline audiograms be preceded by 14 hours without exposure to workplace noise.


“Annual audiogram.” At least annually after obtaining the baseline audiogram, the employer shall obtain a new audiogram for each employee exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels.

Standing alone

The U.S. now stands alone in the world with allowable workplace noise exposure at 90 dBA TWA with a 5 dB exchange rate.  Nearly all other nations have moved to the more protective 85 dBA TWA and 3 dB exchange rate.  The health disadvantage from the effect of noise for tens-of-thousands of U.S. workers compared to global peers is further jeopardized because OSHA generally allows an employee to reach about 94 dBA TWA before non-compliance can be proven. – industrial hygienist Dan Markiewicz

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