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OSHA withdraws proposed interpretation on occupation noise

Posted on 25 January 2011

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced last week that it is withdrawing its proposed interpretation, “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 19 October 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.”

Dr Michaels met earlier in January with the offices of Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in response to a letter from the senators. Sens. Snowe and Lieberman are also co-chairs of the Senate Task Force on Manufacturing.

Dr Michaels emphasized that OSHA remains committed to the issue and will:

• Conduct a thorough review of comments that have been submitted in response to the Federal Register notice and of any other information it receives on this issue;

• 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.

• Initiate a robust outreach and compliance assistance effort to provide enhanced technical information and guidance on the many inexpensive, effective engineering controls for dangerous noise levels.

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