Music via headphones on job sites is legal but discouraged (Members Only)

Although a construction worker who wears headphones to listen to music does not violate federal safety rules, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns listening to music on the job could pose a safety hazard, according to Bloomberg Law.

In a new guidance letter, OSHA’s Acting Enforcement Director Patrick Kapust said there is no specific OSHA regulation prohibiting the use of headphones on a construction site, but “listening to music may produce a safety hazard by masking environmental sounds that need to be heard, especially on active construction sites where attention to moving equipment, heavy machinery, vehicle traffic and safety warning signals may be compromised.”

Safety professionals tend to agree. Steve Smithgall, senior vice president for safety and operations at general contractor Balfour Beatty U.S.’s worksites, says the company has internal rules banning workers from listening to music on the job. He says the ban can be difficult to enforce because earbuds have become less noticeable and people can listen to music on their smartphones. The company allows workers to wear earmuffs and earbuds that protect against loud noises, but Smith says those devices allow workers to hear conversations and approaching machinery.

Attorney Jim Vines, head of King & Spalding LLP’s occupational safety practice, says an employer who permits a construction worker to listen to music using headphones could be vulnerable to a general duty clause violation if an accident is linked to a worker listening to music who could not hear warning signals. He also says allowing loud music on a job site could be included in a worker’s hearing loss claim as a work-related injury.

In 2017, OSHA cited a contractor after a worker who had been listening to music through earbuds connected to a mobile phone was crushed to death by a bulldozer as it backed up. The company settled the case and paid an $11,407 fine.

Date : Jan. 01, 0001

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