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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
Mr. Alfred H. Wilson
Star Route - Box 54
Gore, Virginia 22637
Dear Mr. Wilson:
This is in response to your letter of May 2, 1983, regarding high noise levels in night clubs and similar establishments. Please accept my apology for the delay in responding.
OSHA's regulations for occupational exposure to noise are applicable to all workplaces in the private sector, including night clubs, dance halls, and other places of entertainment. Employers are expected to take appropriate measures to protect their employees who are exposed to excessive levels of noise.
Due to limited inspection resources, however, OSHA normally conducts inspections only in "high hazard" industries, in workplaces where occupational safety and health violations are likely, and in response to formal employee complaints alleging specific workplace hazards. In addition, certain budgetary and statutory restrictions preclude the Agency from scheduling inspections in workplaces where there are only a few employees, except in response to formal complaints. Night clubs and dance halls are not classified as high hazard industries, and they usually have a limited number of employees. OSHA would give due consideration, however, to any formal complaint filed by an employee of such an establishment alleging a serious noise hazard.
Public exposure to loud music in places of entertainment is largely a matter of choice; patrons may complain to the management or take their business elsewhere if they object to noise levels. The exposure of musicians to noise in such establishments is also usually a matter of choice, as in the loudness of the music they play.
OSHA's standard for occupational noise exposure in general industry allows a level of 90 decibels (dBA) for an eight-hour exposure, with higher levels permitted for shorter periods of time. Although sound levels in night clubs and concert halls may sometimes exceed 90 dBA, most musicians and other employees of entertainment establishments are exposed to loud music less than eight-hours a day.
As you may know, the Commonwealth of Virginia administers its own program for workplace safety and health regulation, subject to Federal monitoring, under the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. If you would like information about Virginia's regulation of occupational noise exposure, you may contact:
Azie Taylor Morton, Commissioner
Virginia Department of Labor
P.O. Box 12064
Richmond, Virginia 23241-0064
Telephone: (804) 786-2376
We appreciate your concern about this problem, and hope that this discussion is helpful to you.
Federal Compliance and State Programs