Occupational exposure to high noise levels can be found in different areas of the hospital (e.g., laundry, engineering, and heliport). Employee exposure to noisy machinery or equipment may induce hearing loss, hearing impairment, hypertension and other adverse health effects.

Requirements under OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure Standard, 29 CFR 1910.95

OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure Standard [29 CFR 1910.95] for general industry (which includes the healthcare sector) requires employers to implement a Hearing Conservation Program for all workers who are exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) noise level of 85 decibels (dBA) or higher. A Hearing Conservation Program must include, for example, requirements for measuring employee noise exposure levels, making available annual hearing tests and PPE (i.e., hearing protectors) at no cost to workers, and providing training.

Engineering and administrative controls are the first line of defense against excessive noise exposure (i.e., exposure above the standard’s Permissible Noise Exposure Level). Hearing protectors, such as earmuffs and plugs, must be worn when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible to reduce noise levels below the standard’s Permissible Noise Exposure Level. See Table G-16 in 29 CFR 1910.95 for more information on that standard’s Permissible Noise Exposure requirements. In addition, hearing protectors must be worn by a worker exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average noise level of at least 85 dBA, when the worker's hearing tests indicate significant hearing damage (relative to the baseline hearing tests required by the standard) or the worker has not yet had the baseline hearing tests required by the standard.

Recognized Controls and Work Practices

Some examples of engineering and work practice controls to help decrease occupational noise exposure levels include:

  • Reduce the amount of sound energy released by the noise source.
  • Divert the flow of sound energy away from the worker.
  • Protect the receiver from the sound energy reaching him/her.
  • Proper maintenance of equipment, equipment replacements.
  • Revised operating procedures, equipment redesign, enclosures.
  • Use of acoustical shields and barriers.
  • Use of personal protective equipment.

Use hearing protection (e.g., earplugs, ear muffs) to provide protection against noise exposure.

Additional Information