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 http://www.osha.gov.

September 30, 1983

Danny D. Anderson, President
United Steelworkers of America
Local 3931, District 30
7001 Daisy Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40258

Dear Mr. Anderson:

This is in response to your letter of August 22, 1983, requesting an interpretation of a provision of the hearing conservation amendment to the occupational noise standard.

29 CFR 1910.95(i)(3) states that "employees shall be given the opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitable hearing protectors provided by the employer." The term "suitable hearing protectors" as used in this provision means protectors that are comfortable to wear and that offer sufficient attenuation to prevent hearing loss.

If an employer provides a given employee who requires hearing protection with a variety of ear plugs that meet the above definition of suitable hearing protectors from which to make a selection, then the employer is in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.95(i)(3) with respect to that employee. If however, for a given employee, only ear muffs meet the above definition of suitable hearing protectors, then the employer must provide that employee with ear muffs in order to achieve compliance with 29 CFR 1910.95(i)(3).

As you may know, the Commonwealth of Kentucky administers its own occupational safety and health program under a provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, subject to close monitoring by Federal OSHA. Should you wish to contact the Commonwealth authorities, the address and telephone number are:

Kentucky Department of Labor
U.S. Highway 127
South Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Telephone: 502-564-3070

Thank you for your inquiry. If we can be of future assistance, please contact us.


Bruce Hillenbrand
Director, Federal Compliance
and State Programs