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Can my workplace be too noisy?

Generally, we think of Iowa workplace hazards as consisting of slippery floors, unsafe ladders and dangerous chemicals. However, you may not realize that excessive noise can also risk the health of people at their jobs. According to OSHA, as many as 22 million workers a year are subjected to noise that can damage the human body. In a single year, U.S. businesses had to pay out greater than 1.5 million in penalties for inadequately protecting their workers against harmful noise.

There are a few telltale signs that your workplace might have noise issues. First, you shouldn’t have problems communicating with a fellow worker that’s about an arm’s length from you. If you have to shout to be heard, the noise level is too loud. Also, you may be suffering from noise injury when your shift is over. Humming or ringing in the human ear is one sign you have exposed to excessive noise. Additionally, you may have temporary loss of hearing.

OSHA does set limits on how loud the noise level in a workplace can be. The permissible noise limit is measured in decibels, with an allowable exposure limit of 90 decibels for workers that work an eight hour day. OSHA’s standard works off an exchange rate of 5 decibels. If the noise level in a jobsite increases by 5, then the time that a person may be exposed to a particular noise level to receive the same amount is reduced by half. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workers should not be exposed to a noise level equivalent to 85 decibels for eight hours, to minimize the risks of hearing loss.

Basically, a workplace can be too noisy for its employees, to the point of causing injury. However, federal limits do exist that restrict the level of noise a jobsite can expose its workers to. If a workplace is too loud and workers experience hearing loss or other health problems, the company may be liable for penalties and fines.

This article is intended to inform the reader about noise levels in the workplace and should not be taken as legal advice.

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