One of, if not the scariest OSHA initiatives of recent years is the proposed reinterpretation of the Occupational Noise Exposure standard (Section 1910.95) as requiring employers to implement more in the way of expensive engineering controls than in relatively inexpensive hearing protection.
OSHA quietly dropped the proposal last January (2011). But the results of a recent stakeholder meeting suggest that OSHA hasn’t completely abandoned the idea—at least in its heart of hearts. Among the items discussed at the Nov. 3, 2011 meeting is whether OSHA should place more emphasis on engineering controls and the return of investment on using such controls.
Engineering controls also figured prominently in discussion of the central item on the agenda: hearing conservation program best practices. Key items discussed: (Click here for the entire Meeting Summary Report.)
What’s Next for Noise Protection Engineering Controls?
It appears that OSHA’s current leaders still believe that making employers implement expensive engineering solutions is the best way to protect workers from noise exposure. But the idea is simply not viable as a matter of politics.
Last January’s decision to pull back the proposal is a clear indication of the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to incur the business community’s wrath over this issue. Don’t look for this to change any time soon, especially during an election year.
But an Obama victory in November would, at a minimum, keep the proposal on a backburner for the next 4 years; a Republican victory would take it out of the oven completely.