MSHA Hearing Standard Challenged

NMA is requesting a federal court review of the MSHA hearing protection standard.

When it comes to new standards, one little word can make a huge difference.

The National Mining Association (NMA) has filed a petition requesting that a federal court review the new U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) standard that requires increased hearing protection for miners.

The new standard requires companies to implement "all feasible engineering and administrative controls" when the noise level exceeds 90 decibels, explained Mike Duffy, a spokesman for NMA. The old standard called for feasible engineering or administrative controls.

"In other words, the standard states no credit shall be given for the use of personal hearing protection," said Duffy. "So you are never in compliance if you've got a piece of equipment that cannot be engineered down below 90 decibels" even though in the preamble to the new standard MSHA admits some mining equipment cannot be brought below 90 decibel level.

NAM does not think MSHA has been clear in what is technically and economically feasible, Duffy added. The NMA filed its petition Nov. 10; two other industry groups and the United Mineworkers of American have also filed separate petitions challenging the new rule.

"The agency will be coming out with a compliance guide and instructional material on implementation of the rule in the coming months," said Ed Clair, associate solicitor at MSHA. It is not the agency's policy, he added, to comment on the substance of any matter that is being litigated.

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