OSHA Withdraws Proposed Interpretation Involving Occupational Noise Exposure Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it is withdrawing its proposed interpretation of the phrase “feasible administrative or engineering controls” as it is used in the agency’s General Industry and Construction Occupational Noise Exposure standards. The agency proposed this change in October 2010. The standards require employers to use administrative or engineering controls instead of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce noise exposure that is above the acceptable level when such controls are feasible. The proposed interpretation would have clarified that feasibility in this instance means “capable of being done” or “achievable.”

In the announcement, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said:

Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country. . . . 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.

As part of this effort, Michaels said the agency plans to review the comments that were submitted in response to October’s proposal; hold a stakeholder meeting on preventing occupational hearing loss to elicit the views of employers, workers, and noise control and public health professionals; consult with experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Academy of Engineering; and initiate more “robust” outreach and compliance assistance efforts.

The day before this announcement, President Obama issued an executive order and two memoranda to federal agencies advising them to be mindful of how regulations impact economic growth and business development.

Photo credit: borisyankov

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.