The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the personal risks many workers take simply by performing their job. But even before the pandemic, many jobs in America required workers to take on some amount of risk to their personal health and safety in order to work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 22 million Americans are exposed to one particular hazard at work — noise.
Noise levels that get above 85 decibels, or dBA, are considered to be unsafe and potentially damaging to one’s hearing. For context, a normal conversation is around 60 dBA, and push lawn mowers reach about 90 dBA.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has set two limits on workplace noise — at the Action Level of 85 dBA, OSHA requires employers to cut back on noise and implement hearing conservation programs, such as providing hearing protection. OSHA It set the Permissible Exposure Limit at 90 dBA, someaning that most workers can avoid negative effects as long as their work environment does not cross this threshold. Despite these warnings and requirements, there are dozens of jobs in which the average eight-hour workday exceeds one or both of these thresholds.
To determine the noisiest jobs, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on noise exposure by occupation from the University of Michigan’s Job Exposure Matrix. Occupations were ranked based on the average level of exposure to noise in decibels for all workers throughout an eight-hour workday.
Nearly half of the jobs that rank among the noisiest in America are production occupations, including machine assemblers, food processing workers, machinists, woodworkers, and more. These jobs require the use of large, noisy machinery, and workers are exposed to constant noise pollution throughout the day.
Many of the loudest jobs in the country have a number of drawbacks in addition to the high noise levels. The vast majority of these jobs do not pay well, with an annual median wage of less than $40,000. These are the lowest paying jobs in America.
A number of the jobs that rank among the noisiest are also hazardous for other reasons. The same large machines that produce excessive noise can also be physically hazardous. These are the most dangerous jobs in America.