My safety officer just made a new rule that I wear earplugs when I bottle. It doesn’t seem that loud and when I wear earplugs, I just want to turn the music up more. I’ve been going without earplugs for two years, why do I have to start now?
The Safety Exchange Says: You didn’t tell us if your employer has had noise measurements taken in the brewery. Results from monitoring could trigger the change in hearing protection requirements. On the other hand, there’s nothing against an employer simply requiring hearing protection. If you’re confused about a safety policy at your work – ask for an explanation.
In order to make the best decisions in hearing conservation, an employer should have noise monitoring conducted in the workplace by an industrial hygienist. If average noise levels exceed OSHA’s 85 decibel (dB) threshold, then a comprehensive hearing conservation program (HCP) must be put in place. (This noise level is equivalent to a heavy truck operating about 50 feet from an individual.) One part of the HCP is making audiometric testing available at no cost to the employee.
If average levels exceed the 90 dB “permissible exposure limit” (PEL), then hearing protection is required that will lower the sound to the ears below 90 dB. Considering the requirements that come with exposures over 85 dB, I’m sure you can see why many employers choose to preemptively require hearing protection.
By the way, we know of at least one case where the bottling line was under 85 dB, but when the music was turned up so that brewers could hear it, the levels exceeded OSHA thresholds.