- Standard Number:
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 24 1990
Eric A. Sisco, Esq. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius 801 South Grand Avenue Los Angeles, California 90017-3189
Re: Telephone Headsets
Dear Mr. Sisco:
I am writing to formally respond to questions you raised in the course of a discussion we had on August 21, 1990. Your questions pertained to the general policy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on product endorsement, and application of the occupational noise exposure standard to telephone headsets.
It has been OSHA's longstanding policy and practice not to endorse any commercial products. While it has come to our attention that some manufacturers may claim their products are "OSHA-approved," this claim is not accurate since the Agency does not endorse products. At this juncture I should point out that while certain OSHA standards and regulations do require that in certain circumstances employers use equipment which has been listed or certified by a "nationally recognized testing laboratory," 29 C.F.R. 1910.7 such testing organizations are private facilities not operated by OSHA, although they must meet certain OSHA-specified criteria in order to be recognized as nationally recognized testing laboratories within the meaning of the regulation. To the best of my knowledge, employers do not need to use telephone headsets which have been listed or certified, and even if they did, such testing or certification would be done by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, not by OSHA.
You also inquired as to whether OSHA has prescribed a separate noise standard that would apply to telephone headsets. As I stated during the course of our August 21 discussion, OSHA does not have such a separate standard. The OSHA noise standard at 29 C.F.R. 1910.95, which applies to occupational noise exposure found in industry, would apply indirectly to telephone headsets. That standard requires employers to protect their employees from noise in excess of the permissible exposure limit which is 90 dBA, measured as an 8 hour time-weighted average. Employers whose employees are subjected to 85 dBA or greater (8-hour time-weighted average) are also required to provide a hearing conservation program including audiometric testing on an annual basis for such employees, 29 C.F.R. 1910.95(c). To the extent that employees who wear telephone headsets are subject to noise exposures at or above 85 dBA, their employers would be required to comply with the provisions of this standard.
Finally, regarding the University of Utah study that you inquired about, I can state that this study was commissioned pursuant to a contract let by OSHA to the University of Utah. The primary objective of the study is to develop a methodology for measuring employee exposure to noise while wearing telephone headsets; the purpose is not to test any manufacturer's equipment, and no such testing was performed as part of the OSHA contract.
I trust this responds to all of your inquiries. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, at (202) 523-8021.
Roy Clason Director of Policy