Citing the hazardous noise exposure faced by nearly 22 million American workers daily, the National Hearing Conservation Association has petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to lower occupational noise limits.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is an insidious, permanent and irreversible disease which has a tremendous negative impact on people's lives,” said NHCA president Rick Neitzel, PhD, CIH.
“The good news is that this disease is 100% preventable The bad news is that OSHA's 30-year-old noise exposure regulation is not consistent with current scientific knowledge, is not uniformly applied across all industries, and has not proven effective in preventing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).”
Citing recent research by NIOSH and other organizations, NHCA has requested that OSHA lower the Permissible Exposure Limit in the Occupation Noise Standard 29 CFR 1910.95 from 90 dBA to 85 dBA, and the Action Level from 85 to 80 dBA.
It also requested that the time/intensity exchange rate be reduced from 5 to 3 dB.
This is the second petition OSHA has received this year to tighten the standard. In April, the International Safety Equipment Association petitioned for the exact same limits.
OSHA has not responded to either petition.
In its letter to OSHA, NHCA also requests that OSHA extend the PEL to other industries, such as construction, agriculture, oil and gas drilling and servicing, and shipbuilding, that are not covered by the existing regulation. NHCA also asks OSHA to rescind a policy (OSHA Field Operations Manual, 3/2009) which permits exposures up to 100 dBA without requiring implementation of noise controls.
“Nearly every other nation on earth has adopted a more protective 85 dBA exposure limit - which means that U.S. workers have a substantially greater risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss than do the workers of almost every other nation,” said Neitzel.
“Also, workers in industries like construction, agriculture, and oil and gas drilling are currently not covered by an effective regulation, which is unacceptable, given the high levels of noise exposure associated with these industries."
“We feel that the proposed changes will help give American workers the protection that they deserve, and bring workplace noise regulations in the US in line with current scientific knowledge about noise and noise-induced hearing loss."