Music in a Manufacturing Plant is TOO LOUD!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud music in a manufacturing area:

I did a quick search and didn’t see an answer to what I was looking for. I work in a manufacturing environment in Connecticut. Several times I have mentioned to my immediate supervisor and HR that I find people playing music loudly is a distraction to me. I have yet to receive a satisfactory response from my supervisor or HR. At a job where music is not a requirement to perform your job, do I have a right to voice my concerns about loud music and am I entitled to help from my employer? 
Signed–Too Loud

Dear Too Loud:

Of course you have a right to voice your concerns about loud music and of course your employer should do what is reasonable to lessen that distraction for you. OSHA, however to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t have rules about decibel level of music within a manufacturing area or any other work area.

Two problems with loud music are that it interferes with hearing and transmitting important information and that it can create stress. In a lengthy answer to one question we got, associate workplace doctor Tina Lewis Rowe summed this up as
1. If employees need to communicate regularly about some aspect of work, blaring music combined with machinery noise can make that difficult. One manager said he noticed that some employees became frustrated when they couldn’t be heard and others seemed to not communicate at all rather than yelling questions or comments to coworkers.

  1. There may also be the issue that such loud music subconsciously produces a level of stress, anxiety and aggressiveness. That would be hard to prove. But, some employees may feel those effects and not like the loud music, even though they don’t want to be the ones to complain. This situation about communication or about negative feelings about the music could not only have an effect on communication about work, it could also isolate employees to the point that there is no sense of working as a team or a shift. One way for supervisors to counteract that would be to have a brief huddle at the beginning of the shift just to say hello and provide any needed information, ask employees to share ideas or express concerns or just to thank them for their work and get things going for the shift. At least there would be an acknowledgement that there is a team concept, before people “zone out” with their work and the music.

We have answered more than a handful of music related questions, such as
What Does OSHA Say About Earbuds?  November 28, 2018

What Can I Do About A Factory Coworker Who Plays Loud Rock Music All Day?  May 23, 2018
Too Much Music in my Workplace  February 9, 2018
Ear Buds Where & When  September 22, 2016
Is It Illegal to Play Music in the Warehouse?  January 27, 2016
Federal (OSHA) Rules About Radios At Work?  October 13, 2014  

I trust that you will find more than enough information in these Q&As, and I will not over-explain what you will find in them. The problem you have appears to be that both your immediate supervisor and HR have not responded to your concerns to your satisfaction. For some reason they have not dampened or stopped the music, possibly because most employees seem to want the music or at least not complained about it. I, like you dislike loud music when I’m working and also when working out, and I have written and voiced complaints about it and of aerobic instructors shouting at our the fitness center. It has helped some. I have even cupped my hands over my ears as a signal to those instructors. Fortunately, I can find times when there is little music, unlike you who must endure it all day while you work. So what can you do?

I assume you have considered ear plugs. They can help, but probably would prevent other necessary communication within a manufacturing area. Other options are few: get a petition of coworkers who dislike loud music, propose a time free from music certain hours or days, suggest lowering its decibel level, propose earbuds for those who want loud and certain kinds of music.

Take time to type out your arguments that music, if loud, interferes with communication and causes stress for you and some others; investigate if amplifiers in the area where you work can be turned down. You might think of others argument such as investigating what are the conditions and rules in like manufacturing companies. The importance of what you say will be enhanced by making your arguments calmly, reasonably and with good humor. Your source credibility hinges on doing good work and being a reliable employee.

I believe superiors want those they supervise to feel they do all that is reasonable to make working conditions as safe and pleasant as is possible. When you speak with your supervisor and HR, tell them you believe that and know they want to do what is possible to understand and answer your complaint. Then ask for their help–and ideas of what they can do and if nothing what you might try.

If you have time in a few days, let us know what you have tried to get some relief from loud music. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS . –William Gorden