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July 07, 2014
New NIOSH resource helps employers keep things quiet

Reducing workplace noise is easier thanks to new resources developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). What’s the new offering, and how can your employees benefit?

The NIOSH Buy Quiet initiative encourages businesses to purchase or rent quieter machinery and tools to reduce occupational noise exposures. The intent is to help prevent work-related, noise-induced hearing loss.

With 22 million U.S. workers exposed to hazardous noise at work each year, noise-induced hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States.

According to NIOSH, the Buy Quiet program can help decrease the risk of hearing loss at work, minimize the impact of noise on communities, and help companies comply with OSHA regulations. The resource, available at, includes a video, posters, and links to partner websites.

What else can you do to reduce noise hazards at your site?

The first step is engineering controls that involve modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker’s ear. Examples of inexpensive, effective engineering controls are low-noise equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, sound wall or curtains, and isolating the noise source.

Administrative controls are changes in the workplace that reduce or eliminate the exposure to noise. Examples are operating noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed, limiting the amount of time a worker spends at a noise source, and providing quiet areas where workers can get relief from hazardous noise sources.

Hearing protection devices, such as earmuffs and plugs, are considered an acceptable but less-desirable option to control exposures to noise. They are generally used during the time necessary to implement engineering or administrative controls, when such controls are not feasible, or when hearing tests indicate significant hearing damage.

OSHA requires an effective hearing conservation program whenever worker noise exposure is equal to or greater than 85 decibels (dBA) for an 8-hour exposure or in the construction industry when exposures exceed 90 dBA for an 8-hour exposure.

NIOSH emphasizes that noise-induced hearing loss can’t be reversed, but it is 100% preventable. The Institute recommends that workers not be exposed to noise at a level that amounts to more than 85 dBA for 8 hours. Buy Quiet, according to NIOSH, can help keep your employees below the recommended exposure level.

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