Recommended workplace noise limits

The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends noise level limits to prevent hearing loss in the workplace. This is based on hearing workday noise over 40 years. The recommended exposure limit is no more than 85 decibels (dB) for 8 hours a day. Above this level, hearing loss may occur. As the noise level rises, the time you can be exposed to the noise decreases.

NIOSH recommendations 1
Example Noise level Approximate maximum exposure

Heavy traffic, power lawn mower

85 dB 8 hours

Subway, shouted conversation

90 dB 2.5 hours
92 dB 1.5 hours
95 dB 47 minutes

Boom box, ATV, motorcycle

96 dB 37 minutes
98 dB 23 minutes
100 dB 15 minutes

School dance

101 dB 12 minutes
105 dB 4 minutes

Chain saw, leaf blower, snowmobile

109 dB 1.5 minutes
115 dB 28 seconds

Sports crowd, rock concert

120 dB 9 seconds

Stock car races

130 dB Less than 1 second

People who may be regularly exposed to harmful noise because of their jobs include:

  • Those who work with loud machines, vehicles, or power tools, such as construction workers, factory workers, farmers, truck drivers, mechanics, or airport ground crew workers.
  • Military personnel.
  • Police officers and firefighters.
  • Musicians.

Citations

  1. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (1998). Recommendations for a noise standard. In Criteria for a Recommended Standard, Occupations Noise Exposure, Revised Criteria 1998 (DHHS [NIOSH] Publication No. 98-126). Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/98-126/chap1.html.

Last Updated: April 22, 2009

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