Government backs away from changes aimed at reducing noise injuries in the workplace

In our previous North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers blog we wrote about the government’s intention to address the issues of noise in the workplace.

Recent news indicates the government will be backing away from its plan to address what is easible administrative or engineering controls for occupational noise.
This news worries our Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys who put the well-being of employees as a top priority. The government is backing down after complaints from big business industries with high noise volume on the job. We find that unacceptable. Hearing loss is a life altering debilitative condition that should be taken seriously.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently announced plans to withdraw its proposal for “Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise.”

“Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “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.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported since 2004, almost 125,000 workers have fallen victims to significant or permanent hearing loss. In 2008, there were over 22,000 hearing loss cases. Sadly, hearing loss damage could be easily avoided but only 15% of employees use protection on the job according to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

There are many solutions to be considered to help eliminate noise in the workplace according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The best option is engineering noise control by creating a safe environment for workers. Things like adding extra insulation or padding in rooms or figuring out how to lower the acoustics for product manufacturing are things that can be done to control noise levels. Another approach is the administrative power to change exposure and hearing protection.

Employers can assist by making break rooms noise-resistant or running noise-hazard equipment during a shift where there are less workers present. Unfortunately, handing out ear plugs has traditionally been the extent of workplace safety initiatives when it comes to dangerous noise levels.

OSHA will continue to stay committed to looking at other cost effective solutions to noise reduction in large industries by consulting experts from NIOSHA and National Academy of Engineering. Or so it says. What else would you expect it to say.

They will also conduct stakeholders meetings to grasp the views and ideas of public health professionals, employers, and workers regarding noise control and hearing loss.

Meanwhile, employees will often be subjected to dangerous levels of noise in the workplace.

If you have been injured at work, or have a workers’ compensation claim in North or South Carolina, contact the Law Offices of Lee & Smith to discuss your rights. For a free consultation call toll free at 1-800-887-1965.

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