by Carl Azar

Stay in compliance with OSHA regulations by using wireless headsets.

Safety regulations aim to minimize preventable tragedies on the jobsite and ensure that companies take the proper precautions to protect workers from serious injury. Currently, many regulations focus specifically on better equipping workers to more quickly and efficiently relay information. For many contractors, the emphasis on jobsite communication not only preserves the health and safety of the workers, but also increases productivity.

Current Regulations
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) addresses the issue of adequate communication for workers in different types of construction projects, from underground tunneling to crane and bulldozer operations. OSHA has mandated communications standards in nearly every area of the construction industry, and these changes have vastly improved working conditions for crews.

  • Communication tower construction—OSHA requires that the hoist operator or signal person remain in continuous sight and/or in direct communication with the employee being hoisted. The use of a signal person and hand signals is recommended, except when direct visual contact is not possible.
  • Underground construction and tunneling—OSHA requires that employers maintain open lines of communication through power-assisted communication systems with an independent power supply. These systems ensure communication between the work face, the bottom of the shaft and the surface when natural unassisted voice communication is ineffective. In addition, two effective means of communication are required for shafts under development. Hoist operators must have a closed-circuit voice communication system connected to each landing station.
  • Heavy equipment operations—No specific requirements exist regarding the operation of backhoes, excavators, front-end loaders, bulldozers, scrapers, dump trucks, wagons, rollers and graders. However, at a minimum, hand signals and two-way radios should be implemented to ensure constant communication between operators and workers on the ground. OSHA also suggests hearing protection when working around heavy equipment.
  • Crane operations—Today’s revised crane rules for construction represent the most significant overhaul of crane safety regulations in more than 40 years. Of particular importance are new rules governing communication among the crane operator, signal person and spotter, specifically those requiring electronic signaling through a dedicated channel and a hands-free system.

Figure 1, Noise Levels of Construction Equipment and VehiclesIn addition to requiring adequate communication for workers on a jobsite, OSHA also requires hearing protection when the time-weighted average noise level exceeds 85 decibels (dB)—a standard routinely surpassed in construction and industrial environments due to noisy machinery, tools and vehicles. While the average human threshold of pain is typically around 110dB, many of the operations outlined to the left in Figure 1 can lead to severe or permanent hearing loss, even with limited exposure.

Wireless Advantage
Despite the clear need for safety regulations, construction managers often face challenges in implementing guidelines and complying with industry standards. Many companies are turning to hands-free, self-contained wireless communication headsets for construction safety—eliminating the need for two-way radios and hand signals in many cases.    

With improvements in communication methods on jobsites, the number of accidents, injuries and deaths has greatly decreased. Beyond safety improvements, enhanced communication also benefits the business owner by increasing team effectiveness and business productivity, contributing to lower insurance costs and enhancing new business acquisition through a reputation for safety and efficiency.


The advent of advanced digital communication technology has brought the benefits of wireless communication to several jobsites. Construction managers should consider the following attributes:

  • Hands-free—Hands-free operation encourages workers to communicate without interrupting their work.
  • Duplex communication—Full duplex communication afforded by wireless headsets allows verbal warnings to be delivered instantly, even if someone else is talking.
  • Closed circuit channels—Digitally encoded, dedicated radio channels meet OSHA requirements for many projects.
  • Radio integration—Seamless integration with existing radio systems enables both monitoring of multiple radios and push-to-talk radio transmit capabilities on headsets.
  • Noise reduction—Hearing protection headsets reduce noise by at least 24dB.
  • Long range—New systems with ranges up to 1,600 feet are sufficient to cover most construction applications, including crane operations.
  • Power supply—Battery-powered, portable base stations offer full-day operation and application flexibility, while direct-powered base stations can be mounted on vehicles, equipment or structures.

Construction managers need to consider these benefits as they explore wireless and digital communication tools. With higher standards and new technology, the industry is poised to make great strides in worker well-being.