Too Much Music in my Workplace

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud music:

Are there regulations regarding music in warehouses with forklift operators driving around. I got blindsided hit by a forklift driver in a warehouse that had a speaker system playing music 10 feet from me. I never heard the forklift driver due to the music. Blindsided 

Dear Blindsided:

Yours is an important question. It is one of many we have gotten over the years about music–good and bad–in the workplace.  We are fortunate to have guest consultant in workplace safety Robert Byers, an alum of our School of Communication Studies, to answer to your question.  I’ve included the name of his company should you want to contact him further:

There are no OSHA regulations that disallow music to be played in the workplace. There is the hearing conservation standard that requires the time weighted decibel level in the workplace to be maintained at less than 85 decibels. I would anticipate noise levels in a warehouse to be less than that threshold, but by increasing the levels by introducing music, they may enter the range that would require action. If over that level the employer would be required to engineer away the problem (get rid of the noise) or require hearing protection for the employees.

The bigger violation I would see is a violation of the General Duty Clause. This law requires the employer to “provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm to their employees.” If the employee is unable to hear the approaching forklift, I would think they may also be unable to hear alarms, announcements or even another employee in need of help. As evidenced by the fact the accident actually happened, this employee was not provided a safe workplace in accordance with the law, and the company could be subject to citation and fine.

Bob Byers, Customized Training & Development LLC
OSHA Authorized 503 trainer

Please let us know if this helps you make a case for safer conditions in your warehouse. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS

–William Gorden