OSHA Stakeholder Meeting on Hearing Loss Prevention, November 3, 2011

In an October 6, 2011 Federal Register notice (76 FR 62093), OSHA announced an informal stakeholder meeting to discuss approaches to preventing occupational hearing loss.  OSHA is hosting this meeting to gather information on best practices for noise reduction in the workplace and invites discussion on personal protective equipment, hearing conservation programs and engineering controls. 

The stakeholder meeting will be held on November 03, 2011, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, in the Francis Perkins Building, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-4437 A/B/C/D, at 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. 

The meeting will be limited to approximately 30 participants. However, OSHA indicates it will do its best to accommodate all persons who wish to participate. Registration is required for participants and observers. For complete registration details see the October 6 Federal Register notice attached below. 


Will Mercer ORC Networks participate in this meeting? 

Mercer ORC Networks staff plan to participate in this meeting. To help us prepare, we will hold a 90 minute conference call on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 from 2 pm to 3:30 pm EDT. We invite Mercer ORC Networks participants to join us on this call to discuss industry best practices and challenges. You will receive a separate e-mail invitation to participate in this call. 


How will OSHA’s stakeholder meeting be structured? 

The meeting will be conducted as a group discussion on views, concerns, and issues surrounding the hazards of occupational exposure to noise and how best to control them. To facilitate as much group interaction as possible, formal presentations by stakeholders will not be permitted. The stakeholder meeting discussions will center on preventing occupational hearing loss and will include such subjects as the use of personal protective equipment, effective hearing conservation programs and the use of feasible engineering controls to control noise exposure in the workplace. The discussions will focus on topics such as noise control challenges and the best practices in construction, general industry and other sectors where noise is a hazard. The specific issues to be discussed will include the following:

  • What are the best practices regarding hearing conservation programs?
  • What are the best practices for, as well as concerns with, using personal protective equipment for noise control?
  • What are the best practices for using feasible engineering controls?
  • What are examples of companies that have effective noise control programs; what are the key elements of their programs? 


Why is OSHA holding this stakeholder meeting now? 

OSHA’s stakeholder meeting announcement includes the following background information: 

On October 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published in the Federal Register (FR) a proposed interpretation titled ``Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise'' (http://www.edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-26135.htm). The proposed interpretation would have clarified the term ``feasible administrative or engineering controls'' as used in OSHA's noise standard. This FR notice requested comments on the proposal to clarify that the word “feasible”' has its ordinary, plain meaning of “capable of being done.'”  Comments were due December 20, 2010; however, in response to several requests from the regulated community, OSHA extended the comment period by 90 days to March 21, 2010. Over 90 comments were received in response to this proposed interpretation. OSHA stated that it would review all of the comments before making its final decision. 

The proposed interpretation was subsequently withdrawn on January 19, 2011, http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=19119). OSHA decided to suspend work on the proposal in order to conduct an education, outreach and consultation initiative on preventing work-related hearing loss. As part of the agency's initiative, the agency committed to holding a stakeholder meeting on preventing occupational hearing loss to elicit the views of employers, workers, and noise control and public health professionals. The November 3, 2011 stakeholder meeting fulfills this commitment. 


Every year, between 20,000 and 25,000 workers suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. 

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


Please contact Scott Madar, Ann Brockhaus or Dee Woodhull if you have questions.


A copy of the Federal Register notice is attached.


OSHA_OccHearingLoss_Stakeholder_2011-25904.pdf147.75 KB