Is music constantly playing at your workplace? Construction outside of your office driving you crazy? You should consider testing your environment to see if it fulfills legal requirements.
Over 30 million people each year are exposed to hazardous noise through their occupation, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
To prevent people from being forced to work in such an environment, the agency has set a legal decibel limit that can be reached at a workplace.
The legal limit over an 8-hour day is 90 decibels (db), the sound level of a motorized lawn mower. For every 5 db the sound level increases over 90 db, the legal limit is cut in half – 4 hours for a 95 db work environment, 2 hours for 100 db, etc.
Image courtesy of the OSHA website.
However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Center for Disease Control, has recommended workplaces to not have levels above 85 db over 8 hours, based on more recent studies. It also suggested a 3db interval, instead of 5, as shown below.
Image courtesy of the NIOSH website.
What you can do about it
There are several apps you can download for your smartphone to check noise levels:
Sound Meter, for the Android, which lets users measure decibel levels.
Decibel Meter Pro, for iOS devices, which also measures decibel levels.
dB Volume MEter, another iOS device that can measure statistics such as average, low, and peak level of volume.
As the app descriptions say, the smartphone microphones are not very accurate, especially above 100 db. For a professional-grade readout, a purpose-built Sound Level Meter microphone is needed. However, it can give you a good general sense of the sound level, which you can then discuss with your manager.
The ultimate solution? Work from home, if you can.