SBA Official Changes Tune on OSHA Noise Initiative; Says His Office Was 'Unable to Evaluate' Possible Safety Benefits

by Ben Somberg

We noted earlier this month that a U.S. Small Business Administration official had claimed that the danger of workplace noise was solved just as well with earplugs as it is with reducing the noise at its source -- despite extensive research to the contrary ("Presidential Appointee at SBA Maligns OSHA's Industrial Noise Proposal; Claims Ear Plugs 'Solve' the Problem").

The official, Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the SBA, has since given a slightly different line. From BNA's Occupational Safety and Health Reporter (4/28):

We strongly support regulations that protect worker safety and health," Sargeant said. "But with regard to the noise rule, we were unable to evaluate whether this proposal was necessary, as a matter of safety, or whether it was economically feasible.

If SBA has indeed not evaluated the safety necessity, it's troubling that Sargeant had previously made such a strident claim about the safety issue being "solved" by earplugs. Sargeant has no obligation to be an expert on the safety benefits of noise controls; he could simply say, as he has, that he is concerned about the costs. Going further and demeaning the safety benefits as nonexistent -- and then later admitting his office was "unable to evaluate" them -- is not helpful.
 



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