noise regulations Archives - Shopfloor

Whom to Believe? Washington Post Editorialists or OSHA Spokeswomen?

By | Human Resources, Labor Unions, Policy Experts | No Comments

Or neither…

Washington Post editorial, “The right balance on business regulations“:

On Wednesday came the first concrete result of the president’s new emphasis: withdrawal of a proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required businesses to protect workers from shop-floor noise by changing schedules or installing new equipment rather than by passing out earplugs, as current rules require. Strongly backed by organized labor, the proposed rule had triggered loud business protests, especially from manufacturers, who said it would cost billions and destroy jobs. Now it will be progressives’ turn to howl.

Our emphasis. Associated Press, “Feds drop plan to change workplace noise standards“:

OSHA spokeswoman Diana Petterson said the noise standards decision was “completely unrelated” to Obama’s order. The proposal did not involve issuing a new rule, but reinterpreting an existing rule.

The Post comments after OSHA pulled its noise plan, “Now it will be progressives’ turn to howl.” While it’s a safe prediction that “progressives” will howl just on general principle, on the OSHA interpretation they’ve been quiet. We looked for expressions of outrage from organized labor and the usual suspects who supported OSHA’s noise plan, and nothing.

Our guess is that the noise plan was so unworkable and business’ objections so persuasive, even the activists expected it to be pulled.

P.S. OSHA Administrator David Michaels will address the American Bakers Association next week. We’ll be interested to see his responses to questions about the noise rule and President Obama’s regulatory instructions.

OSHA Slows Down on Expansive, Expensive Anti-Noise Mandates

By | Human Resources, Regulations | 5 Comments

The Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor of Labor this morning announced its intention of extending the comment period for re-interpretation of the OSHA Noise abatement requirement by 90 days.  The original comment deadline was scheduled for December 20th, but the National Association of Manufacturers sought additional time for public input. This 90-day extension will allow interested groups further opportunity to assess the impact of the interpretation.

As the NAM’s Keith Smith has blogged (here and here),  the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in late October its intention to re-interpret the meaning of “feasible” regarding noise abatement programs. The new interpretation elevates the standard for administrative and engineering controls of noise, making them required unless an employer can demonstrate that making such changes will put them out of business. The NAM sought the extension in light of the broad economic impact of such a requirement and the difficulty of gathering relevant data from which to base any decision.

A copy of the NAM request can be found here.

Joe Trauger is the NAM’s vice president for human resources policy.

OSHA Tone Deaf to Rising Regulatory Costs

By | General, Human Resources, Regulations, Small Business | 4 Comments

OSHA issued a notice this morning announcing the agency’s intention of changing its official interpretation of workplace noise exposure standards and enforcement. Currently OSHA, and rightfully so, regulates the acceptable levels of noise that employees are exposed to in the workplace. To protect their employees against hearing loss, the agency has allowed employers to provide personal protective equipment – earplugs, ear muffs – to supplement their operating practices (like duration of exposure, frequency of use) and engineering controls (like noise dampening equipment and muffling systems). OSHA’s common-sense approach held that it was OK for employers to take this approach – personal protective equipment — toward noise prevention when it was effective.

However, OSHA plans to abandon this practice. In its notice, the agency announces its goal of requiring employers to implement all “feasible” controls – using a defintion of “feasible” that means “capable of being done”– regardless of the costs or the effectiveness of currently used personal protective equipment.

This means that employers must make sweeping changes to their workplaces — introduce new workplace practices and install new equipment — to quiet workplaces even if employees are already protected from loud noises with effective earplugs and the like.

These changes must be done regardless of their costs unless an employer can prove that making such changes will “put them out of business” or will threaten the company’s “viability,” according to the notice. This means that despite the costs of the new structural changes or the benefits of their current programs, employers will be expected to retool their workplaces. Should this change move forward, OSHA will begin enforcing this new policy with citations. Unless employers can prove to OSHA inspection officers that the changes will be economically devastating or are impossible to make, the companies will be forced to put these costly new requirements into effect.

So even though employees can be completely protected, employers will have to spend more to comply these additional OSHA requirements, costs that will be pose an extra burden on smaller businesses. The Small Business Administration recently reported that smaller firms pay nearly $3,000 more per employee than larger firms to comply with government regulations. That’s money that could be usefully spent on creating jobs and paying wages and benefits.