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.

Aug 15, 1985

Mr. Dale Fischer
Farwest Steel Corporation
2000 Henderson Avenue
Eugene, OR 97440

Dear Mr. Fischer:

This is in response to your letter of July 23, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) commenting on the wide-spread use of lightweight portable stereo headsets and questioning their possible safety liabilities and their possible damaging effects on the ear.

Enclosed are the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 occupational noise exposure standard and its March 8, 1983 hearing conservation amendment. Note that the allowable limit for occupational noise exposure is 90 dB(A) averaged over an eight hour period. Note also that a hearing conservation program is mandated if the exposure exceeds 85 dB(A) for an eight hour period. These levels can easily be exceeded by any of the headsets on the market.

OSHA is responsible for assuring safe and healthful conditions in the workplace. OSHA, however, is not empowered to ban the use of certain equipment except when determined unsafe through rulemaking process. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the employer is responsible for employee safety and health. Therefore, a number of employers have simply resorted to the outright banning of stereo headsets at worksites, since it is impractical to control individual volume settings for such devices.

For further information on noise exposure, its measurement and its control, please contact Raymond G. Kunicki at (202) 523-7065.



Stephen J. Mallinger
Acting Director
Directorate of Technical Support




July 23, 1985


Mr. Thorne G. Auchter, Asst. Secretary
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210

Mr. Lee M. Thomas, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
402 M. Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460


Why not a ban on "bananas in the ear?" Namely, Walkman's, etc. Walkers, joggers, bike riders, truck and auto drivers, and you name 'em, are all listening at perhaps the expense of safety - and - surely ear damage.

May I suggest you writing to the House Ear Institute in the Los Angeles area and their counterparts around our nation. There are several. Secure medical opinions and do something positive if in fact future hearing is being damaged. Rock and roll concerts are bad enough. Why create problems. Isn't that what EPA and OSHA are all about?

Yours very truly


Dale Fischer
Farwest Steel Corporation