The International Safety Equipment Association has petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate a standard that would lower the Permissible Exposure Limit for occupational noise to 85 dBA from the current PEL of 90 dBA and lower the Exchange Rate (ER) to 3 from 5.
“The current regulations for occupational noise exposure at 29 CFR 1910.95 and 29 CFR 1926.52 allow a substantial percentage of the nation’s workforce to incur hearing loss,” ISEA President Daniel K. Shipp wrote April 28 in a letter to Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab.
Shipp noted that the current noise regulations were promulgated more than 20 years ago, based on research conducted in the 1960s. “In the intervening 40-plus years, significant new research findings indicate that the 90 dBA for an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) PEL and an ER of 5 are insufficient to protect workers from the harmful effects of workplace noise” he writes.
Shipp says that the Defense Department complies with the tighter limits and that the National Institution for Occupational Safety and Health recommended the 85dBA limit in a 1998 publication.
“The U.S. is one of only two countries still employing the 90 dBA PEL, and one of three using an ER of 5,” the letter says. “It is clear that workers in certain sectors and in most other nations receive protection from noise greater than that offered by U.S. regulations for employees in general industry, construction, shipyards, maritime and agriculture sectors.”
ISEA submitted the same request for action in non-petition form nearly two years ago, Shipp wrote, “and other organizations and professional societies wrote to OSHA in support of the request. Occupational noise remains a significant and widespread workplace hazard, and thus ISEA believes the issue still merits OSHA’s efforts.”
OSHA had no immediate response to the petition.
ISEA is the trade association in the United States for companies that manufacture safety and personal protective equipment.