occupational noise Archives - Shopfloor

OSHA Withdraws Unworkable Occupational Noise Plan

By | Regulations | One Comment

From the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “US Department of Labor’s OSHA withdraws
proposed interpretation on occupational noise

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced that it is withdrawing its proposed interpretation titled “Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise.” The interpretation would have clarified the term “feasible administrative or engineering controls” as used in OSHA’s noise standard. The proposed interpretation was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 19, 2010.

“Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “However, it is clear from the concerns raised about this proposal that addressing this problem requires much more public outreach and many more resources than we had originally anticipated. We are sensitive to the possible costs associated with improving worker protection and have decided to suspend work on this proposed modification while we study other approaches to abating workplace noise hazards.”

This is the right outcome, and OSHA is to be commended for reaching it. The National Association of Manufacturers had worked diligently on the issue, raising serious objections based on the proposal’s unworkability. (A formal statement from the NAM is coming.)

[UPDATE, 11:05 a.m.: The Wall Street Journal reports, “Workplace-Noise Rule Gets Shelved,” citing the NAM: “Clearly the message has been heard by OSHA,” said Joe Trauger, NAM vice president of human-resources policy.”]

For more, see the NAM’s backgrounder on the OSHA noise proposal. The NAM’s ManuFact summarized the most serious objections, noting that the NAM successfully sought an extension in OSHA’s deliberations. Earlier blog posts:

The announcement is a pretty good way to reinforce President Obama’s new emphasis on reasonable regulation. Of course, this proposal’s excess was so obvious and simply to explain — even if ear plugs and individual noise-reducing earmuffs worked effectively, businesses would still have to redesign their operations — it was an easy one to back away from.

OSHA’s administrator, David Michaels, spoke Tuesday at Public Citizen, one of the leading advocacy groups for the expanded regulatory state. Judging by Public Citizen’s reporting (Tweeting) on the event, Michaels did not give the group a head’s up about the pending withdrawal. Boy, they must feel burned, especially as it came in the wake of President Obama’s executive order on regulations.

Interesting, too, that Reina Steinzor of the all-regulations, all-the-time Center for Progressive Reform decried the President’s regulatory announcement with this observation: “[The] President’s newly stated position diminishes EPA’s Lisa Jackson, FDA’s Margaret Hamburg, and OSHA’s David Michaels, siding instead with his regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who has steadily pushed to issue an executive order that throws a net over his colleagues rather than helping them do their jobs.”

Hope OSHA Listens to Employers on Its Noisome Noise Proposal

By | General, Human Resources, Regulations | 2 Comments

Employers now have access to affordable and extremely effective technology to protect employees from excessive workplace noise. But it’s JUST NOT ENOUGH, OSHA shouts, regulatorily.

As a Nixon-Peabody Alert puts it, “OSHA announces a radical new and enormously costly interpretation of occupational noise standards“:

With little fanfare, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has quietly announced that it is considering a radical change to its interpretation of an employer’s obligations concerning employee exposure to occupational noise. The announcement may have been quiet, but the impacts will be loud. If adopted in their current form, the new obligations will be substantial and the potential cost to employers is likely to be immense.

The law firm is sending out warning to employers in light of the Oct. 19 Federal Register notice by OSHA, “Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise.”

The International Safety Equipment Association describes the proposal, “OSHA prepares to lower the boom on workplace noise“:

If you’re an employer with a noisy workplace, OSHA says you have to keep the sound level below a certain level, or provide your workers with PPE such as ear plugs or earmuffs. There is a condition in the regulations that says the administrative or engineering controls used to limit noise must be feasible, which OSHA has long interpreted as meaning less costly than an effective hearing conservation program using monitoring, testing, training and PPE. Now OSHA wants to revise that policy, interpreting feasible to mean “capable of being done” and setting a new threshold for affordability.

Dave Ippolito, a former OSHA compliance officer, commented in response to a blog post at the Center for Progressive Reform, supporters of the ever-expanding regulatory state. Ippolito knows what he’s talking about:

As an ex OSHA compliance officer, supervisor, and OSHA Area Director I will simply say that literal enforcement of this approach, without careful consideration could put many Americans out of work. Read More