Should You Allow Your Hourly Workforce to Use Headphones on the Job? OSHA Says No

February 4, 2020 - minute read

It should come as no surprise that many employers permit their hourly workers to wear headphones on the job or play music across worksite speakers. Why? It’s been found to improve employee morale, enhance retention, and even promote a positive company culture. However, major safety authorities like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warn that the benefits and positive intention behind these practices do not outweigh the health hazards they inevitably create.

Thanks to OSHA’s latest interpretation, we have some additional guidance on how to make the safest decision for your business, as well as how to enforce whatever policy you create. Without further ado, here are the latest insights regarding noise regulation and safety compliance!

Risks of Wearing Headphones on the Job

While overhead music or a loud radio do increase risks, headphones present a major safety hazard to hourly workers. In particular, construction and manufacturing employees need to be able to hear auditory cues when working at a jobsite or factory.

There are many situations where headphones create the circumstances for an accident:

  • Headphones can impede operators’ awareness of their surroundings and ability to hear any potential notifiers of a problem, injury, or crisis. For employees operating large machinery or who are working in a warehouse environment, listening to headphones can present the same level risks as distracted driving, according to Seyfarth Shaw. The risk is not only to the operators, but to additional personnel who may be in the vicinity nearby.
  • Loose headphones can become caught in machinery or come in contact with electrical currents. Many headphones are Bluetooth and don’t necessarily include long exposed cords. However, risking the safety of those workers who do not use wireless gear is not an option. Furthermore, earbuds and other wireless options still pose risks of falling out of employees’ ears, creating distractions, and can have the same effect of physical distraction and risks as other headphone variations.
  • The decibels from headphones may cause long-term hearing damage. In this case, the long-term effects of loud music and constant headphones usage by employees may cause hazards to employees’ hearing and undermine more lenient policies. This not only harms the health of your workforce but lowers the functionality of your employees and creates an irreparable liability for those who have permanent damage.
  • Headphones can create a serious impediment to timely evacuation. Federal regulations require you to train your employees to respond to auditory warning devices such as fire, chemical, heat, and other alarms. If your employees cannot hear these notifiers—even if they’re working properly—workers may not be able to react fast enough to escape a threat.

Ultimately, OSHA advises employers to ban headphone use where it is used in a way that creates a recognizable hazard. Unfortunately, the level of recognizable hazard remains under employers’ discretion. For more information, review OSHA’s “Worker Safety Series Protecting Yourself from Noise.”

Improving Worker Safety with EPAY Systems

At EPAY, we do everything possible to help ensure the safety of your hourly workforce. Our approach includes solutions such as:

  • Worker Attestation Questions: This question(s) option is part of our time collection system and allows you to ask your employees questions such as “Did you have an accident-free day?” That way, you have records of all accidents and can respond effectively and efficiently.
  • Onboarding and Learning Management Tracking: With our powerful human resource management modules, training employees, tracking incomplete requirements, and promoting consistent safety education is easier than ever. You can create customized trainings and ensure your workers always have access to standard safety procedures.
  • Employee Self-Service (ESS) Portal: Using ESS, your HR administrative team can upload employee safety brochures, as well your company’s HR policies and employee handbook. Giving your workforce direct access to safety information is key for lessening liabilities and encourages employees to take personal responsibility for abiding by your headphones policy.
  • OSHA Form Generation: With our seamless platform, you’re able to log ongoing OSHA entrees into the system and generate OSHA forms 300 and 300A effortlessly. This ensures you submit employees’ work-related injuries and illness information and summaries to the appropriate offices efficiently and accurately.

Ready to learn more about the only workforce management system that tackles hourly workforce safety? Check out our blog on the “Top 5 Safety Trends of 2020 and How to Prepare for Them” or watch our workforce management overview video! 

Filed Under: Workforce Management Construction Manufacturing Learning and Development OSHA