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Hearing conservation group pushes for engineering controls

May 4, 2011

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Westminster, CO – In a recent letter, the National Hearing Conservation Association urged OSHA to focus on administrative and engineering controls, rather than hearing protection, to reduce noise exposure.

The letter (.pdf file), sent to OSHA March 16 and posted on NHCA’s website in April, was written in response to OSHA’s January withdrawal of a proposal to return to the agency’s original interpretation of its occupational noise standard (1910.95). According to OSHA, the intent of the standard was for employers to use feasible controls to reduce noise exposure, but the agency’s enforcement policy instead has allowed them to use hearing conservation programs, including hearing protectors.

In the letter, NHCA President Timothy Rink said a hearing conservation program alone might not prevent hearing damage because workers often wear hearing protection improperly. He noted that the United States lags behind other industrialized countries in implementing effective noise controls even though NIOSH has repeatedly recommended more stringent noise standards.

OSHA cited costs to businesses when it withdrew the proposal, and Rink acknowledged that concern but said noise controls may be a more cost-effective long-term strategy.

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