One day after President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring a government-wide review of federal regulations to uncover ones that hurt job creation, OSHA has pulled a revised interpretation of its noise standard.
Just last month it looked like OSHA was moving forward with its noise proposal after a short extension of the comment period.
But only a few weeks later, OSHA has decided that it needs a lot longer to address this issue and has taken the proposal off the table — for now.
OSHA wanted companies to use “feasible” engineering and administrative controls to address loud workplaces instead of relying on hearing protection for workers. Examples: making machines quieter or implementing job rotation to reduce employee exposure.
OSHA wanted to define “feasible” as those changes that are capable of being implemented without threatening a company’s ability to stay in business.
The proposal faced a large amount of criticism from industry groups.
The National Association of Manufacturers said businesses, particularly smaller ones, would face “staggeringly high costs” under the proposal.
Among other groups objecting to the proposal were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Home Builders.
“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,” said OSHA administrator David Michaels. “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.”
Permissible noise exposure didn’t change in the proposal. OSHA standards require companies to administer a hearing conservation program whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level of 85 decibels.
On the day OSHA announced it was withdrawing the noise proposal, The New York Times reported, “The president has made no secret of his desire for détente with the business community that was so alienated by the agenda of his first two years.”
In announcing his executive order requiring review of certain regulations on business, Mr. Obama said he’d prefer regulatory questions be resolved through negotiation with industry rather than confrontation.
The regulatory process requires time for industry to comment on proposed rules, particularly after they’ve been proposed. There’s no requirement that the business community be consulted before a regulation is proposed.
The president’s statement seems to point toward more collaboration between the administration and businesses before proposals are made.
Time will tell whether this really results in a change in how President Obama’s OSHA seeks regulatory changes in workplace safety.
What do you think about OSHA’s withdrawal of changes in interpretation of the noise standard? Was it a result of an overall desire by the Obama administration to work better with industry? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.