WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration withdrew its proposed noise control policy.

OSHA said its "Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise." 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 Oct. 19, 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."

Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss.

In withdrawing its noise interpretation, OSHA said it would continue to make efforts to abate occupational noise-related hearing problems. The safety agency said it would:

  • 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.

Read press release about OSHA's action on workplace noise abatement.

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