How Loud is 85 Decibels?

Noise is one of the most common health and safety challenges in industry. It causes short term hazards like decreased ability to communicate efficiently, as well as long term health effects such as hearing loss, tinnitus, cardiovascular effects and stress.

The threshold for hazardous noise in the workplace has been established at 85 decibels on the A weighted scale (dBA). Specifically, the employee’s average noise exposure for a standard 8-hour workday must equal or exceed this 85 dBA level to be considered at risk for negative health effects. But how loud is 85 dBA?

Many household vacuum cleaners create noise levels of approximately 85 dBA and a lawn mower creates noise levels of approximately 90-95 dBA. We have a built in method to determine if noise levels exceed 85 dBA. If you have to raise your voice to be understood during a conversation with someone about four feet away it is likely that noise levels exceed 85 dBA.

However, it is important to not rely on this method of approximating noise levels. Calibrated sound level meters are needed for performing sound level surveys to determine approximate noise exposures throughout a facility. After identifying facility areas with potentially harmful noise levels the next step is to perform personal noise exposure monitoring. In this step, employees wear noise dosimeters during the entire work shift to determine their average noise exposure level. Average exposures equaling or exceeding 85 dBA requires the implementation of a hearing conservation program.

Cascade Health & Safety is experienced in assisting employers with noise exposure evaluations, implementation of hearing conservation programs as needed and identifying methods to reduce exposures and risk of noise induced hearing loss.

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