May 12, 2022

OSHA Initiative Aims to Reduce Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Manufacturing

The enforcement phase of a Regional Emphasis Program focused on noise-induced hearing loss is set to begin on May 17, OSHA announced this week. The program is intended to identify, reduce, and eliminate occupational exposure to hazardous noise levels, and targets manufacturing industries with high rates of occupational hearing loss in the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, which are part of OSHA Region 8. The agency’s enforcement activities follow a 90-day outreach period during which OSHA sent letters to employers, held training sessions with stakeholders, and shared relevant information in other ways. According to the agency’s program directive (PDF), enforcement activities will include inspection and review of operations and working conditions, injury and illness records, and safety and health programs.

OSHA used Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data to select industry sectors with incident rates for hearing loss of at least nine per 10,000 full-time workers for inclusion in the emphasis program. These sectors include food manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, primary metal manufacturing, and fabricated metal product manufacturing. According to BLS, in 2019, wood product manufacturing had an incident rate for hearing loss of 21.7 per 10,000 full-time workers, while the subsector of prefabricated wood building manufacturing had a rate of 31.1. BLS data for 2019 indicate that the incident rate for hearing loss for all industries in the United States was 1.4 per 10,000 full-time workers.

OSHA stresses that, in addition to permanent hearing loss, excessive noise exposure can also cause increased physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, and interfere with communication and concentration. More information on occupational noise exposure can be found on the agency’s website.