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OSHA Withdraws Two Proposals in Less Than a Week

OSHA LogoIt has been an eventful week for OSHA. In less than one week OSHA has withdrawn two different proposals on the docket for 2011.

First was the withdrawal of the proposal to clarify the term “feasible” relating to the occupational noise rules. The proposal titled “Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise” would have required that excessive noise be controlled through engineering controls versus through the use of personal hearing protection to limit exposure.

OSHA’s assistant secretary explains the withdrawal by stating, “Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country. 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.” He emphasized that OHSA remains committed to finding ways to reduce occupational noise exposure.

OSHA expresses that they will continue to hold stakeholders’ meetings to determine what other avenues would be appropriate to limit exposure without putting such a burden on small business.

The second proposal withdrawn and perhaps more surprisingly was the proposed work-related musculoskeletal disorder column on employer injury and illness logs.

This proposal would not have changed the requirements or rules surrounding the record keeping process, but would have required those employers that currently use the OSHA 300 logs to also use a check box designating the injury as an MSD.

“Work-related musculoskeletal disorders remain the leading cause of workplace injury and illness in this country, and this proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in workplaces,” said Dr. David Michaels. “However, it is clear that the proposal has raised concern among small businesses, so OSHA is facilitating an active dialogue between the agency and the small business community.”

According to OSHA the withdrawal of this proposal is considered “temporary” and will be under continued review to determine how the proposal would affect small businesses.

The withdrawal of both of these major proposals for OSHA is of course surprising and the fact that they come within one week of each other, and just hours before the U.S. State of the Union address, makes one wonder if OSHA is starting to lose ground on its aggressive agenda. In the words of President Obama during the State of the Union address, “jobs must be our number-one focus in 2011.” We should start where most new jobs do – in small businesses.”

It may be that with the government’s heightened focus on job creation, OSHA is now less able to implement potentially burdensome measures on businesses resulting in the safety of the worker being sacrificed. It may also be that OSHA is perhaps starting to realize that its current “solutions” to increase workplace safety will overly burden businesses, and ultimately not have an impact in the overall safety of the workforce. Regardless of the impetus behind these two proposal withdrawals, it is clear that OSHA has taken a step back and is re-evaluating its 2011 agenda.

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