The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a new program to address hazards associated with exposure to high levels of occupational noise. This Regional Emphasis Program (REP) focuses on workplaces with the highest expected exposure to noise, a hearing loss incident rate of 15.0 and above per 100,000 full time workers. The REP is effective in the states of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico (limited to sites under federal jurisdiction), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The REP document will be posted shortly at https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/lep.
The program begins October 1, 2018, with a three-month period of education and prevention outreach to encourage employers to bring their facilities into compliance with OSHA standards. Enforcement activities directly related to the REP will begin after the outreach period and OSHA will continue to respond to complaints, referrals, hospitalizations, and fatalities throughout.
Exposure to occupational noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss that can be either temporary or permanent. High noise levels can also cause sensitivity, tinnitus, and acoustical trauma. Hearing loss is pervasive but it is also preventable with the implementation of proper controls. Proper controls can consist of engineering controls (e.g., mufflers, isolation from the noise source, or acoustic baffles), administrative controls (e.g., employee rotation and limiting duration of exposure), or personal protective equipment (i.e., hearing protectors) if engineering controls or administrative controls are not feasible.
For additional information about how to protect workers where noise levels are unable to be reduced below the OSHA required levels, please see https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/.
OSHA offers compliance assistance to all employers at no charge. Each state has an On-Site Consultation Program, a free and confidential program to help small- and medium-sized employers learn about potential hazards, including noise hazards, at their workplace and improve safety and health programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations.
If you have any questions, contact your nearest OSHA office.