Hearing Loss Prevention | Environmental Health and Safety | Virginia Tech
Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Engineering and Administrative Controls

Engineering Controls

The preferred method of controlling excessive exposure to noise sources is engineering controls wherever feasible. During a preliminary and/or detailed noise survey EHS works with the supervisor and employees will identify the dominant noise source(s) in an area.

The OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (1983) 1910.95 requires that employees be protected against effects of noise exposure when sound levels exceed the table below, when measured with a sound level meter set on the dBA scale at slow response.

Time Per Day (Hours) Sound Level dBA
8 90
6 92
4 95
3 97
2 100
1.5 102
1 105
.5 110
.25 or less 115

If noise exposure concerns are identified, feasible administrative (i.e., worker-machine rotation, breaks from noise) or engineering (i.e. quieter machinery, noise path absorbers or barriers, mufflers, isolation) controls must be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels to within the acceptable levels, personal protective equipment (i.e., earplugs, earmuffs) must be provided and used.

Excessive noise exposures may be reduced by controlling the noise emitted at the source, along the path, or at the receiver (employee). The method chosen is dependent upon the particular problem to be solved and is limited by such factors as feasibility, relative effectiveness, and impact upon the employees and their productivity.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls include a very broad and often practical range of noise control solutions. The most common administrative noise control is the modification of work schedules to limit employee noise exposures. This can not only reduce noise exposures, but can sometimes increase productivity by dividing a demanding task between two or more employees. Caution must be taken to prevent an increase in the percentage of the workforce being exposed to noise hazards. A regularly scheduled equipment maintenance program and the establishment of set noise control limits for new or modified equipment are also effective administrative means of controlling noise, and will be highly recommended to affected work areas and supervisors.

It is the policy of OSHA to enforce the use of engineering and administrative noise controls wherever feasible, particularly in areas where hearing protection devices alone are not adequate. EHS will provide recommendations on engineering or administrative controls, but the implementation of these controls is the responsibility of the department.