Westminster, Colo — The National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) says it is disappointed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has withdrawn its proposed interpretation of “economic feasibility” for workplace protective hearing, but says it still supports OSHA’s efforts to comply with its Congressional mandate.
On October 19, 2010, OSHA had published a proposal to revise the interpretation of the noise standard. The revised interpretation would require noise control (administrative or engineering), where economically and technologically feasible, for work environments that expose employees to or above the permissible exposure limit of 90 dBA (8-hour time-weighted average).
When OSHA made the announcement, NHCA supported OSHA’s proposed interpretation as a significant step forward in reducing the incidence of work-induced hearing loss and other health conditions related to excessive noise exposure.
However, as reported earlier by Hearing Review, OSHA withdrew its interpretation of economic feasibility in response to feedback from manufacturers, legislators’ comments, and an executive order advising federal agencies to be mindful of the impact of regulations on economic growth.
According to the published letter by Dr David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA was still committed to the goal of reducing the incidence of work-related hearing loss and would study other approaches, such as greater outreach and compliance assistance, and gather additional information from stakeholders, manufacturers, and safety and health professionals.
In response to the letter, NHCA said in a press release:
“While hearing conservation strategies such as education and effective, consistent use of personal hearing protection help to reduce the risk of injury from this hazard, they are meant to supplement, not replace, hazard abatement. Noise control is a crucial component of hearing loss
prevention, and should be recognized as a primary strategy for effectively reducing the amount of noise exposure in the work environment.
NHCA continues to support OSHA’s efforts to comply with its Congressional mandate; to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees through the provision and enforcement of effective safety standards. While disappointed by the recent events, we are encouraged by Dr. Michaels’ confirmation that OSHA is not abandoning the cause of abating this pervasive workplace hazard.
It is our hope that OSHA will continue to address the concerns surrounding noise control, and to emphasize the critical role it plays in preventing occupational noise-induced hearing loss."