20 October 2010
The federal safety and health agencies are living up to expectations that they will seek to adopt long sought Democratic and Union goals, even while Congressional legislation is under consideration. This week Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a policy to change to the definition of "feasible" controls for noise, essentially leading to mandates for extensive engineering controls before hearing protection programs and personal protection equipment are permitted for "compliance." Concurrently, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposed reducing the coal dust exposure limit by 50 percent, implementing a "single sample" dust enforcement scheme (instead of the average of five samples previously found needed to obtain "accurate" results) and implementing the use of personal instantaneous dust reading devices. The new rules and policies appear intended to overturn long established policy, legal precedent and/or Congressional findings.