Are You Putting Your Employees and Customers at a Health Risk?

by Wall Covering Designs Inc. on July 27, 2011

In 2002, over $72.8 million in penalty were paid by business owners who violated regulations enforced by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Often overseen, one may be shocked that what many businesses are neglecting to address is the safety of noise levels in work environments. This data even applies to the everyday places we so often patronize, but would never have fathomed to be in violation of health regulations; Such frequented businesses are your neighborhood restaurants, nightclubs and bars. Excessive noise levels are harmful to visitors, but more importantly, they put employees at hazardous health risks.

OSHA was established in 1981 to prevent occupational hearing loss in the workplace and to provide “feasible guidelines” for business owners to follow. Whether random or scheduled, an OSHA compliance officer can conduct an assessment and penalize businesses (between $5,000-$70,000) who willingly seem to violate OSHA regulations. If previous violations are not addressed, ramifications including civil “penalties up to $7,000 a day can be enforced.” ( Now, hitting closer to home, California has recently become one of 27 states to strictly improve enforcement efforts. By enacting A.B. 2774, the statue will closely follow any citations and better establish a system of communication between Cal/Osha and the employer in violation.

If you are a business owner concerned about the healthy of safety of your employees and patrons, the following two-stage program by OSHA noise standards may help you determine if your business is at risk:

  • If employees are exposed to 85 decibels or more in an 8-hour day, a hearing conservation program must be implemented in which hearing protection devices and annual audiometric testing are required.

  • If exposure to noise exceeds 90 decibels, engineering controls are mandatory and administrative controls could limit the length of time an employee can be exposed to certain noise levels. Acoustic installations or redesign of the space to reduce noise are traditionally methods of engineering controls for most businesses.

  • Businesses are not required to adhere to OSHA regulations unless a compliance officer administers an inspection (sometimes at any given time), but even so much as a claim or complaint may be a red flag for noise violation. Having worked with many restaurants for consultation and acoustical installations, I have found that the average restaurant can operate at over an 80 decibel level, but have seen many reach as high as 110 decibels. However, resolving such hindrances in the workplace is simple if implemented correctly and professionally. Even placing acoustic panels in the proper locations of a venue can make a noticeable difference and lower decibels to a safe and operable level.

    Not only does complying to OSHA regulations protect the integrity and morality of a business, but actively reducing noise levels can increase productivity and reduce the risk of accidents. Furthermore, the cost of OSHA penalties along with its consequences are far less affordable than an unsafe working environment.

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