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ASSE Joins 85-3 Coalition For Increased Worker Hearing Protection

Posted in on Mon, Nov 5, 2012

DES PLAINES, IL (November 5, 2012) – In its efforts to encourage increased hearing protection for workers, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) announced today that it has joined the 85-3 Campaign to confront the “silent epidemic” of occupational hearing loss in the U.S. The 85-3 Campaign recognizes organizations and employers that, as part of their hearing protective strategy for workers, have adopted the 85 dBA (decibel) noise protection level.

“On behalf of its nearly 35,000 member safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals, ASSE is pleased to join the 85-3 Coalition and looks forward to working with the coalition’s members to support the adoption of the 85-dBA average exposure limit for an 8-hour day measured with a 3-dB exchange rate,” ASSE President Richard A. Pollock, CSP, said in a statement on joining the 85-3 Coalition.  “The appropriateness of the 85-3 level is widely accepted in practice by our members and many of the employers with whom they work throughout the world.”

Earlier this year, ASSE urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to focus its efforts to improve hearing protection on lowering OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) for noise from the current 90 dBA (decibel) to 85 dBA.  Noise intensity is measured in dBA and time of exposure to noise is measured in hours and minutes.

“Additionally, 85-3 is required in the ANSI/ASSE A10.46 Standard “Hearing Loss Prevention for Construction and Demolition Workers” and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has known the gains in hearing protection 85-3 can achieve for decades,” Pollock noted.

Hearing loss is a serious problem. According to NIOSH, when people are exposed to harmful noise—sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time—sensitive structures in the inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, hair cells cannot grow back.

Pollock said with a 40-year lifetime exposure at the 85-dBA REL, the excess risk of developing occupational NIHL is eight percent — considerably lower than the 25 percent excess risk at the 90-dBA permissible exposure limit (PEL) currently enforced by OSHA. Adoption of the 85-3 level would provide hearing protection for workers across every workplace where noise is a risk.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society. Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professional members are committed to protecting people, property and the environment.  For more information on this issue please go to or to

Contact: Diane Hurns,

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