New OSHA Noise Hazard Program

OSHA announced a new Regional Emphasis Program (REP) to identify, reduce, and eliminate hazards associated with exposures to high levels of noise. The program was announced on June 14, 2021, and is for OSHA Region V, which includes Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

  • By law, OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program when average noise exposures (over 8 working hours) are at least 85 dB. This is about as loud as a gas-powered lawn mower.
  • OSHA started with a 3-month informational phase that will include outreach activities, like training sessions, letters to employers or industry groups, and news releases through traditional and social media.
  • In September, they will begin scheduling inspections with manufacturing facilities with hearing loss rates higher than the national average. Industries with NAICS codes that start with 32 and 33 are the primary targets for this REP.

What can you do to prepare?

  • Make sure your injury and illness records (such as your OSHA 300 logs) from 2018 to the present are up to date.
  • Review your historic noise data. If you’ve had some significant facility changes since the last time a noise assessment was performed, consider reevaluating employee noise exposures.
  • If you’ve never had a noise assessment, consider developing a facility noise map to identify areas that could contribute to noise exposures at or above 85 dB.
  • If you have a hearing conservation program, confirm that all employees had an audiogram in the last 12 months.
  • Confirm that your hearing protection’s noise reduction rating (NRR) is adequate to reduce exposures.