The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration on Nov. 3 held its first public meeting on the prevention of occupational hearing loss since its withdrawal of a proposed interpretation of noise standards last January.
The goal of the meeting was to gather information from stakeholders on best practices for hearing conservation programs, personal protective equipment (PPE) and feasible engineering controls.
According to OSHA, hearing loss from excessive noise in the workplace is one of the most prevalent occupational health issues in the U.S — affecting between 20,000 and 25,000 workers each year.
Participating in the meeting, NAHB suggested that personal protective equipment -— such as hearing protectors — along with a simple and easy-to-implement hearing conservation program is the best approach to the problem, rather than costly engineering and/or administrative controls.
NAHB also said that OSHA should focus on the needs of small construction businesses when developing solutions to reduce occupational hearing loss.
Other industry stakeholders were strongly in favor of protecting workers from noise hazards by having them properly wear the appropriate PPE.
OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax said that the agency is not trying to reduce the 90-dBA exposure limit, but instead wants to achieve reductions of workplace noise under the existing standard.
When the agency withdrew its proposal to reinterpret its noise standards, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, promised to take these steps to demonstrate a commitment to reducing workplace-induced hearing loss:
- Review comments submitted on the issue
- Host a stakeholder meeting on preventing occupational hearing loss
- Consult with experts at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Academy of Engineering
- Initiate a "robust" outreach and compliance assistance effort to provide guidance on inexpensive and effective engineering controls
For more information on the OSHA meeting, email Rob Matuga at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8507.
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