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OSHA backs down from stricter noise rule
Agency reconsiders less emphasis on PPE
Business groups raised an uproar over proposed changes in the interpretation of the noise protection rule, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration heard them.
In January, OSHA withdrew its proposal and promised to hold a stakeholder meeting and consult experts about noise protection.
The proposed re-interpretation of the Occupational Noise Protection standard would have changed "feasible administrative and engineering controls" to mean "capable of being done" or "achievable." They would have been considered to be economically feasible as long as they didn't threaten the financial viability of the business.
OSHA said employers shouldn't choose ear protection rather than other methods of controlling the noise hazard simply because personal protective equipment is less expensive. Under the new interpretation, employers would rely on PPE only if the administrative and engineering controls weren't completely effective in reducing the noise hazard.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, among others, argued that the new interpretation would be costly and would lead to job losses.
"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," OSHA administrator David Michaels, PhD, MPH, said in a statement.
OSHA also said it will "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."