If you have this same question, don’t worry because I have the answers today. As well as discussing noise-cancelling headphones, we’re going to look at the role of the OSHA, OSHA requirements for earbuds and headphones, and various brands and models that have the stamp of approval from the OSHA.
Are noise-cancelling headphones OSHA approved? On the whole, the use of noise cancelling headphones is not approved by the OSHA since it drowns out worker or environment noises. However, there are some brands that have been approved and these can be considered safe for working environments.
OSHA allows business owners to make their own decisions but reminds them that high volumes and extensive usage can damage hearing.
The Role of the OSHA
Back in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was released, and this led to the formation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Just as the name suggests, their role over the decades has been to ensure that all working men and women are provided with fair working conditions. At all times, workers should have their health and safety considered to prevent injuries (both short-term and long-term).
Over the years, the OSHA has developed and implemented a set of regulations by which all employers must abide. However, they aren’t just for law enforcement since the OSHA also provide learning materials, training, education, assistance, and outreach.
Despite operating as an isolated agency, we should note that the OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. In their role, the Act covers some public sector employers and most private sector employers across the 50 states (and some territories).
Unless a rare exception, all new businesses will need to conform to OSHA guidelines and standards to provide a safe workplace for all employees.
As the years pass, the OSHA is always learning and developing ways to make the workplace safer and this leads to rule changes. For example, the standard for slips and falls were recently adjusted.
Suddenly, their regulations for scaffolding were brought in line with the construction industry and several other changes were implemented.
In 2018, new rules were introduced to protect employees from exposure to respirable crystalline silica, as another example.
OSHA Rules on Noise Cancelling Headphones
In some jobs, employees have taken to wearing earphones or headphones as they work. For example, a delivery driver might listen to some music while taking the mail from house to house.
Elsewhere, somebody on the factory floor might want to listen to music while making a particular product or operating machinery.
Recently, noise-cancelling earphones and headphones have been introduced to the market and it has brought lots of questions for the OSHA (hence this guide today!).
For those who haven’t really seen these products or are unsure of how they work, they create an ‘anti-noise’ which allows for what’s called ‘destructive interference’. In other words, all exterior noise is either reduced or cancelled out.
While trying to listen to a new album, people talking or just making noise in general can ruin the experience – this is why they were first developed.
Outside of work, they can be incredibly useful and active noise-cancelling headphones have even been lauded for their health benefits and reduction of hearing loss. Elsewhere, some say the earphones can;
- Boost concentration
- Improve the quality of sleep
- Reduce stress
- Improve the listening experience
Also read my article ‘Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Safe‘ if you like to know about the safety issues related to noise cancelling headphones.
These benefits are when compared with traditional earphones, and they only occur when listening at safe volumes and for short periods of time.
If listening at a loud volume for an extended period, this is where damage can occur. When brought into the workplace, questions have arisen.
As mentioned previously, the OSHA allow employers to assess the role of their employees and decide whether or not noise-cancelling headphones would be appropriate; employers must remain in compliance of the regulations at all times.
For example, employees may be allowed to wear headphones in low-noise environments, but they should never be allowed to wear headphones over earplugs.
In an OSHA study, those who listen to music with the volume up high can damage hearing and remove their ability to hear ambient sounds such as warnings and machinery alerts. As a result, they’ve suggested that employers provide their staff with training and advice on listening to music even when away from the job.
Recent OSHA Warning
Before we provide more advice on OSHA-approved brands and models, 2018 saw the OSHA delve into this topic further and they provided a warning to construction workers/employers.
In a job where the risks are so high anyway, they have suggested that personal headphones should be banned since the wearer won’t receive important auditory cues from their environment.
As part of their drive, the OSHA recently released a pocket booklet entitled ‘Protecting Yourself from Noise in Construction’.
According to the booklet, the best solutions for the loud noises of a construction site are either earplugs or sound-attenuating headphones.
With this booklet and the views of the OSHA for certain industries, this provides an insight into their overall outlook on the devices.
Although they do support certain brands for low-noise environments, they’re worried about personal headphones being used in the wrong circumstances.
In dangerous environments where there’s always a risk of injury and where employees need to be alert and listen to auditory cues, the OSHA says headphones are a negative.
As well as threatening their own safety, wearing noise-cancelling headphones also presents a danger to colleagues and even pedestrians/innocent passers-by.
With all of this information in mind, employers need to be vigilant and sensible.
While a team of writers in an office might want to listen to music to cancel out the hubbub of the office, having road workers with noise-cancelling headphones is another story entirely.
OSHA-Approved Earphones and Headphones
As promised, we’re going to finish on some manufacturers and brands that have been approved by the OSHA.
Typically, they will offer special features that limit the volume and, therefore, prevent damage to the user’s hearing.
As well as paying attention to our list, feel free to continue your own research and find out whether your favorite brands fall within OSHA guidelines.
Not only do ISOtunes provide earphones that have been approved by the OSHA, they’re also a fantastic up-and-coming brand that pay particular attention to the needs of users.
If we look at the Noise-Isolating Bluetooth Earbuds to start, they have a 26dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) and a battery life of around four hours.
Thanks to the Bluetooth feature, you don’t have to worry about being tethered while on the rowing machine or sitting at the computer at work.
Additionally, they offer heat-activated memory foam ‘eartips’ that expand just like earplugs.
With this, the product will mold to your ear and you don’t have to worry about outside noise while trying to work.
As well as being OSHA-compliant, these earphones are also ANSI-certified.
Although we’ve used one product from ISOtunes as an example, the majority of their products boast the same safety features which makes them a dream for the OSHA. There are two impressive features in particular;
- ISOtunes Original Hearing Protection
- ISOtunes SafeMax Technology
With these two additions, you don’t have to worry about volume causing damage to your ears and you can be confident in the knowledge that OSHA is happy with the product.
We understand, you’re a little nervous about investing in a brand that you probably haven’t heard of previously. However, their reviews are growing stronger online and the products are generally built to last.
With IPX3 sweat and water resistance and an incredible ultra-light design, you shouldn’t have to buy a replacement any time soon.
Just in case something does happen to go wrong, the one-year warranty from the manufacturer will keep you protected.
If four hours of battery isn’t enough for your needs, ISOtunes has many other products available online with some extending to eight and even ten hours.
With the PRO Bluetooth Earplug Headphones, the NRR is 27dB and they also come in a vibrant orange for those who want a little character with their earphones.
Check out these noise cancelling earphones by ISOtunes on Amazon.
Elsewhere, we recently discovered another fantastic brand in the niche called ‘Ruckus’.
If we use the Ruckus Earplug Earbuds as an example, these are in-ear headphones that have a 25dB NRR which therefore allows them the OSHA approval and ANSI certification.
We could start with several great features from Ruckus, but we just couldn’t ignore the ‘bulletproof’ nature of the cables.
Since they use Kevlar strand, similar to what you might find in bulletproof helmets and vests, you’ll have the strongest earphone cables known to man.
According to Ruckus, the earphones have been built for professionals and they allow users to ‘immerse’ themselves into work.
Thanks to biocompatible USP Class 5 medical-grade silicone, they fit comfortably in the ear and shouldn’t ever cause irritation.
During the design stage, the clever employees at Ruckus actually used what’s known as anthropometric scaling to perfect the size and shape.
If you’re working in the rain, they have so-called ‘enclosure technology’ to keep out moisture (as well as dust and other debris!); this conforms to IP65 protection.
Finally, all products from Ruckus come with a nice carry case which will keep them clean and protected (not that the bulletproof design and enclosure protection don’t already do enough!).
Check out these noise cancelling earphones by Ruckus on Amazon.
Next up, Plugfones has dipped its toes into this particular market with the Guardian Earplug and Earphone Hybrid.
First things first, the NRR is between 23dB and 26dB which falls within the OSHA recommendations. Also, the product is ANSI-certified and meets NIOSH criteria.
Unique to Plugfones, the SoundSeal noise-suppressing technology will ensure that your music goes uninterrupted wherever you may be.
In terms of the design, the manufacturer has chosen ComforTwist Foam Plugs which should adjust to your ears and remain comfortable even while moving around.
If we look at a few extras, you might also enjoy;
- Cable management clip
- Waterproof case
- A quick-start guide
- Interchangeable silicone plugs if you prefer this to foam
Check out these noise cancelling earphones by Plugfones on Amazon.
Are noise-cancelling headphones OSHA-approved? Hopefully we’ve answered this question for you today.
As well as reviewing what the OSHA actually does, we’ve learned their stance on headphones and some brands that fall under the OSHA guidelines.
If in doubt, check the NRR and see what features the headphones offer for safety and volume management and you’ll be good to go!
Check out the noise cancelling headphones I own and recommend.
Also read: Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Protect Hearing?