Are There OSHA Rules About Radios?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about radios:

Does OSHA prohibit personal radios?

Signed, Wondering


Dear Wondering:

There are no OSHA regulations related to the use of personal radios, except as it might relate to hearing safety in environments where ear protection must be used. Some state OSHA material discourages the use of earphones and earbuds in jobs where it is important for employees to be able to hear a variety of tones and sounds clearly.You may want to check with your state OSHA, since they are often more easily contacted with questions of this nature.

The federal OSHA website is another resource, but there is nothing I can find that relates to the subject.If you are wondering how to prohibit the use of personal radios at work, the easiest way to do that is simply to say they can no longer be used. There are a number of very logical reasons for having that rule:

1. Radios without earbuds can disturb and distract others, even though those people might not speak up to complain. When other equipment is being used, the volume often must be turned up so loudly it is very distracting to others.

2. Rarely will everyone agree about what music should be heard and conflict results.

3. Work is not entertainment. Unless an employee was promised when he or she was hired, to be allowed to listen to a radio there is no reasonable expectation about it. Many jobs do not allow the use of radios and employees are able to function just fine.

4. When employees are listening to a radio with earphones or earbuds, they can’t easily communicate with others…and often others feel they are interrupting to ask a question to try to get assistance. Work requires that all employees be able to hear others and communicate easily.

5. And the fifth reason, which I realize is not popular is this: The employer is paying the salary and can change or adjust work policies and rules as needed. The use of radios is one of those rules.Now, having said that….it might not be worth drawing a line in the dirt over radios. So, if using radios is a big benefit for employees, you’d want to think twice about stopping the perk. Maybe instead, you should find a way to stop the problems being caused by radios. That may relate to volume, the type of music, the availability of employees to hear and be heard and so forth. Sometimes employees can develop solutions, if it means they can continue using their radios. Our archives have quite a few letters about this issue, so perhaps you will find them useful. Best wishes, whatever your challenge is involving radios at work!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.