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.

July 10, 1986

The Honorable Thomas S. Foley
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Foley:

Thank you for your letter of June 10, on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Jeff Jacques, suggesting that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Occupational Noise Exposure Standard of 90 dB(A) is set at too high a level, and that the level should be set at 85 dB(A) or less.

While it is true that the OSHA noise exposure criterion for the workplace is set at 90 dB(A) for an eight hour exposure, it should be noted that OSHA mandates implementation of a hearing conservation program if an employee's exposure is found to be 85 dB(A) or more for an eight hour period. Enclosed for your information are copies of the 29 CFR 1910.95 Occupational Noise Exposure Standard and its March 8, 1983, Hearing Conservation Amendment. The Amendment begins on page 9776 of the enclosed Federal Register notice.

Much discussion and debate took place in public testimony on the subjects of the number of employees in the work force potentially exposed to excessive noise levels, criteria for limiting workplace noise exposures, and costs involved with and without effective OSHA regulations, before OSHA issued its Hearing Conservation Amendment. Also, enclosed for your information is the preamble to the OSHA January 16, 1981, version of the Hearing Conservation (which has been superseded by the present 1983 Amendment). This preamble discusses and analyzes the arguments brought forth on the subject of an effective workplace noise criticism.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us. Rebecca Morris is the Department of Labor's Office of Congressional Affairs at 523-6141.


Edward J. Baier
Directorate of Technical Support