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OSHA emphasis program to focus on hazardous noise in Midwest manufacturing

Hearing protection ear muffs
Photo: Thirawatana Phaisalratana/iStockphoto

Chicago — OSHA has launched a Regional Emphasis Program to address on-the-job noise hazards in the Midwest manufacturing industry.

Enforcement of the REP – which covers Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin – will begin after the completion of a three-month outreach and education campaign that started June 1, according to a press release. Enforcement activities will include “the inspection and review of operations and working conditions, injury and illness records, and safety and health programs to identify and obtain corrections of workplace hazards at all applicable inspection sites.”

Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Requirements Survey, published in 2019, OSHA notes that more than half of U.S. manufacturing workers reported not using hearing protection.

OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for noise is 90 dBA over an 8-hour time-weighted average period. Under OSHA’s Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (1910.95), workers must cut their maximum exposure time in half for every 5 dBA increase.

The standard also directs employers in general industry to implement a hearing conservation program when noise exposure levels reach 85 dBA or higher for an 8-hour time-weighted average period.

Baseline and annual audiograms for participants may help determine whether hearing loss is present.


For workers whose test results exhibit what the agency calls a “standard threshold shift,” the employer must fit or refit the worker for hearing protection, educate the individual on proper use, and ensure the protection is worn.

“Earning a living should not come at the expense of hearing loss,” William Donovan, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Chicago, said in the release. “Hearing conservation programs are designed to prevent workplace hearing loss, protect remaining hearing, and provide employers and workers with knowledge and equipment to control and reduce exposure to noise.”

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