Petition to OSHA Requests Change in Hearing Loss Rule ASHA is coordinating a joint petition of professional and consumer organizations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting reconsideration of its final rule (67 FR 44037-44124) on criteria for recording cases of occupational hearing loss. The ASHA-led petition requests that OSHA immediately reconsider and withdraw the 25 dB ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   December 01, 2002
Petition to OSHA Requests Change in Hearing Loss Rule
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Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   December 01, 2002
Petition to OSHA Requests Change in Hearing Loss Rule
The ASHA Leader, December 2002, Vol. 7, 1-13. doi:10.1044/leader.PA2.07222002.1
The ASHA Leader, December 2002, Vol. 7, 1-13. doi:10.1044/leader.PA2.07222002.1
ASHA is coordinating a joint petition of professional and consumer organizations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting reconsideration of its final rule (67 FR 44037-44124) on criteria for recording cases of occupational hearing loss.
The ASHA-led petition requests that OSHA immediately reconsider and withdraw the 25 dB fence hearing loss recording criterion and reinstate and implement the 10 dB Standard Threshold Shift (STS) criterion as originally contained in the agency’s January 2001 final record-keeping rule (66 FR 5916-6135). ASHA also is launching a broader public advocacy campaign to gain the support of Congress, other organizations, and individuals to overturn OSHA’s reversal.
The purpose of recording occupational injuries and illnesses is to identify workplace hazards that cause workers to become injured or ill and to put into place actions to protect workers. Recording a 10 dB STS affords the opportunity for early intervention and action on the part of the employer as required in 29 CFR 1910.95.
OSHA Weakens Rule
Earlier this year, OSHA amended the January 2001 final record-keeping rule without any supporting evidence in the record (July 1, 2002, Federal Register). This action drastically weakened the hearing loss recording provisions from a 10 dB STS to 10 dB STS only in those cases where workers have also already experienced a 25 dB loss. In addition to weakening worker protection, this action underestimates the extent to which workers are incurring occupational noise-induced hearing loss and greatly undermines the goal of a hearing conservation program—to preserve hearing at baseline levels. In addition, the new OSHA rule would preempt 26 state occupational safety and health laws that have greater hearing conservation protections.
10 dB STS
The 10 dB STS hearing loss recording criterion, established in the January 2001 final rule, was appropriately protective of worker health, fully supported by the expert testimony and documentary submissions in the record, and completely in keeping with the language and purposes of the OSHAct.
The evidence in the record of the January 2001 record-keeping rule also clearly established that a 10 dB STS is a significant and permanent change in a worker’s hearing. Since 1983, the OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (29 CFR 1910.95) has recognized that a 10 dB STS is an event of sufficient adverse magnitude and importance to require employers to take action to protect the hearing of the affected worker and prevent further hearing loss. The record also strongly supported the use of the 10 dB STS as the appropriate criterion for recording hearing loss on the 300 Log as required by 29 CFR 1904.
The 25 dB Fence
The argument against the 25 dB fence hearing loss recording criterion is strong. The 25 dB fence is an inappropriately high threshold. It requires workers to lose hearing to a level (i.e., 25 dB) that is compensable under many state workers’ compensation laws. An effective hearing conservation program should prevent work-related hearing loss associated with industrial noise exposure from ever reaching a level that can be compensated. In order to do so, a sensitive measure (i.e., STS) must be in place.
The use of the 25 dB fence is also discriminatory. Under this criterion, individuals with normal hearing must incur larger shifts in hearing before their hearing loss is recordable than coworkers with pre-existing borderline-normal hearing or pre-existing hearing loss. The amount of pre-existing hearing loss an individual has is not the issue. The intent of the Occupational Noise Exposure Standard (29 CFR 1910.95) is to reduce the number of American workers incurring occupational hearing loss.
For more information, visit ASHA’s Web site at http://www.asha.org/, go to “About ASHA” and “Legislation & Advocacy”. For questions, contact Maureen Thompson through the Action Center at 800-498-2071, ext. 4431, or by e-mail at mthompson@asha.org.
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December 2002
Volume 7, Issue 22