OSHA Calls for Stronger Occupational Hearing Safety Standards A proposal by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls for employers to implement hearing safety standards—above and beyond providing hearing protection—for their employees. Under the current noise standard, employers must use administrative or engineering controls—rather than personal protective equipment—to reduce noise exposures that are above acceptable levels ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   November 01, 2010
OSHA Calls for Stronger Occupational Hearing Safety Standards
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Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   November 01, 2010
OSHA Calls for Stronger Occupational Hearing Safety Standards
The ASHA Leader, November 2010, Vol. 15, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.PA5.15142010.6
The ASHA Leader, November 2010, Vol. 15, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.PA5.15142010.6
A proposal by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls for employers to implement hearing safety standards—above and beyond providing hearing protection—for their employees.
Under the current noise standard, employers must use administrative or engineering controls—rather than personal protective equipment—to reduce noise exposures that are above acceptable levels when such controls are “feasible.” For many years, OSHA has interpreted “feasible” in an economic, cost-benefit sense rather than in the sense of “capable of being done.” Under OSHA’s current enforcement policy, the agency issues citations for failure to use engineering and administrative controls only when hearing protectors are ineffective or the costs of such controls are less than the cost of an effective hearing conservation program.
In its proposed interpretation to its General Industry and Construction Occupational Noise Exposure standards, OSHA is calling for “feasible” to be defined as “capable of being done,” an interpretation that would make OSHA’s enforcement of noise standard consistent with its approach to all other health and safety standards.
In the proposal, OSHA states the current interpretation is “contrary to the plain meaning of the standard and thwarts the safety and health purposes of the OSH Act by rarely requiring administrative and engineering controls even though these controls are affordable and generally more effective than hearing protectors in reducing noise exposure.”
Under the proposed interpretation, OSHA would consider administrative or engineering controls economically “feasible” if:
  • The cost of implementing such controls would not threaten the employer’s ability to remain in business.

  • Failure to meet industry safety and health standards pose a threat to the employer’s viability.

The proposed interpretation was published in the Federal Register [PDF] on Oct. 19. OSHA is accepting comments on the proposed interpretation through Dec. 20, 2010. For additional information, contact Ingrida Lusis, director of federal and political advocacy, at ilusis@asha.org.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
November 2010
Volume 15, Issue 14