The Use of Headphones on a Construction Job

Source: Maxim Blinkov - 123RF

It’s hard to find anyone walking, jogging, or riding without earphones plugged in listening to their favorite music track, audiobook, etc.

According to C-Net, noise-canceling headphones and earbuds definitely have their place — airplanes, subways, crowded offices, and other noisy environments. The road is not an environment where noise-canceling headphones would serve you well. If you must leave both ears covered, wear a pair of regular headphones that still allow you to hear oncoming cars, sirens, and other traffic sounds.

But what about construction workers? Are they permitted to do the same?

OSHA’s standard for Occupational Noise Exposure in construction, 29 CFR 1926.52, sets permissible noise exposure limits (PEL) in Table D-2 and requires the employer to protect employees subject to sound levels exceeding these limits.

OSHA’s Hearing Protection standard, 29 CFR 1926.101, requires that ear protective devices be provided by the employer and used wherever necessary to reduce noise levels below Table D-2 limits.

A portable music player is not a substitute for hearing protection, however. The noise exposure on the jobsite, or through the use of volume-limiting headphones, must not exceed the Table D-2 limits. 

The use of headphones on a construction site may be permissible at managerial discretion, unless such use creates or augments other hazards apart from noise.

For example, struck-by hazards are one of the four leading causes of death in construction. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employees are not exposed to struck-by hazards while performing their work.

Listening to music may produce a safety hazard by masking environmental sounds that need to be heard, especially on active construction sites where attention to moving equipment, heavy machinery, vehicle traffic, and safety warning signals may be compromised.

Additionally, some manufacturers may claim that their products are “OSHA approved” or “100% OSHA compliant.” OSHA does not register, certify, approve, or otherwise endorse commercial or private sector entities, products, or services.

Therefore, according to OSHA, any such claims by a manufacturer are misleading.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *