Nebraska Grain and Feed Association
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Dec. 14 extended by 90 days – until March 21 – the deadline for receiving public comments on its announced intent to “clarify” its interpretation of the definition of “feasibility” under its occupational noise exposure standard in a way that would limit severely the ability of employers to issue personal protective devices to protect employees’ hearing.

The NGFA and other industry groups have voiced strong concerns about the impact the OSHA notice on the noise standard would have, as well as the extremely troubling and costly precedent it could represent for other OSHA standards.  The agency on Oct. 19 had issued a notice proposing to define “feasibility” of administrative and engineering controls with respect to the occupational noise standard as meaning merely “capable of being done.”  This differs markedly from the agency’s current enforcement policy under the noise standard, which since 1983 has allowed employers to rely upon a hearing conservation program based upon the use of personal protective equipment, such as acceptable ear plugs, if it reduces noise exposure of employees to acceptable levels and is less costly than administrative and engineering controls.  Administrative controls refer to management practices that avoid placing employees in proximity to noise levels exceeding limits established under the standard or providing them with hearing protection to reduce such noise levels.  Engineering controls refer to design or structural changes to the physical operation of the facility.

But OSHA now maintains that a recent Supreme Court decision and rulings by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission require that it no longer consider cost-benefit analysis when determining the “feasibility” of administrative and engineering controls.  Rather, OSHA said it now intends to interpret the standard as requiring the use of administrative or engineering controls unless they “threaten the employer’s ability to remain in business” or if the threat to (the company’s) viability results from its failure “to keep up with industry safety and health standards.”  [Emphasis added.]  In proposing to amend its noise-enforcement policy, OSHA stated its intent to authorize issuance of citations requiring the use of administrative and engineering controls when “feasible” based upon its new interpretation of that term.

The agency said it was extending the comment period at the request of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Coalition for Workplace Safety, both of which requested a 90-day extension.  The NGFA is an active participant in the workplace safety coalition, comprised of employer groups and trade associations.  But in its most recent Federal Register notice on the matter, OSHA defended its original intent to redefine the standard by referencing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that allegedly show that more than “125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss” since 2004.  The agency added that in 2008 alone, data showed 22,000 hearing loss cases.  The NGFA’s Safety, Health and Environmental Quality Committee is reviewing this significant OSHA notice and its potential precedent-setting impact, and plans to submit comments by the March 21 deadline. 



calendar of events

August 4, 2017

NeGFA Summer Meeting & Golf Outing

York Country Club

York, NE





contact us

Nebraska Grain and Feed Association
4600 Valley Road, Suite 416
Lincoln, NE 68510-4844
Phone: 402-476-6174
Fax: 402-476-3401