Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise, 64216-64221 [2010-26135]

Download as PDF jlentini on DSKJ8SOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS 64216 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules (d) of this section to another interest crediting rate (the new rate) that satisfies the requirements of paragraph (d) of this section, the plan’s effective interest crediting rate is not in excess of a market rate of return for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section merely because the plan provides for the benefit of any participant who is benefiting under the plan (within the meaning of § 1.410(b)–3(a)) on the applicable amendment date to never be less than what it would be if the old rate had continued but without taking into account any principal credits (as defined in paragraph (d)(1)(ii)(D) of this section) after the applicable amendment date. (B) Multiple amendments. A pattern of repeated plan amendments each of which provides for a prospective change in the plan’s interest crediting rate with respect to the benefit as of the applicable amendment date will be treated as resulting in the ongoing plan terms providing that the interest crediting rate equals the greater of each of the interest crediting rates, so that the rule in paragraph (e)(3)(iii)(A) of this section would not apply. See § 1.411(d)– 4, A–1(c)(1). (4) Actuarial increases after normal retirement age. A statutory hybrid plan is not treated as providing an effective interest crediting rate that is in excess of a market rate of return for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section merely because the plan provides that the participant’s benefit, as of each annuity starting date after normal retirement age, is equal to the greater of— (i) The benefit determined using an interest crediting rate that is not in excess of a market rate of return under paragraph (d) of this section; and (ii) The benefit that satisfies the requirements of section 411(a)(2). * * * * * (f) * * * (2) * * * (i) * * * (B) Special effective date. Paragraphs (c)(3)(iii), (d)(1)(iii), (d)(1)(iv)(D), (d)(1)(vi), (d)(2)(ii), (d)(4)(iv), (d)(5)(iv), (d)(6), (e)(2), (e)(3)(iii), and (e)(4) of this section apply to plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2012. * * * * * Steven T. Miller, Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. [FR Doc. 2010–25942 Filed 10–18–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830–01–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Oct 18, 2010 Jkt 223001 DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Occupational Safety and Health Administration [Docket No. OSHA–2010–0032] 29 CFR Parts 1910 and 1926 Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ACTION: Proposed interpretation. AGENCY: This document constitutes OSHA’s official interpretation of the term feasible administrative or engineering controls as used in the applicable sections of OSHA’s General Industry and Construction Occupational Noise Exposure standards. Under the standard, employers must use administrative or engineering controls rather than personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce noise exposures that are above acceptable levels when such controls are feasible. OSHA proposes to clarify that feasible as used in the standard has its ordinary meaning of capable of being done. The Agency intends to revise its current enforcement policy to reflect this interpretation. The Agency solicits comments from interested parties on this interpretation. DATES: Submit comments on or before December 20, 2010. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods: Electronically: You may submit comments and attachments electronically at http:// www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Follow the instructions online for making electronic submissions; Fax: You may fax submissions not longer than 10 pages, including attachments, to the OSHA Docket Office at 202–693–1648. Mail, hand delivery, express mail, messenger and courier service: If you use this option, you must submit three copies of your comments and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA–2010–0032, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N–2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. Deliveries (hand, express mail, messenger and courier service) are accepted from 8:15 a.m.–4:45 p.m., e.t. Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and the OSHA docket number for this interpretation (OSHA–2010–0032). Submissions are placed in the public docket without SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 change and may be accessed online http://www.regulations.gov. Be careful about submitting personal information such as social security numbers and birth dates. Docket: To read or download submissions or other material in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov or the OSHA Docket Office at the address above. All documents in the docket are listed in the http:// www.regulations.gov index; some information (e.g., copyrighted material), however, can not be read or downloaded at the website. All submissions, including copyrighted material, can be examined or copied at the OSHA Docket Office. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: General information or press inquiries: MaryAnn Garrahan, Acting Director, Office of Communications, Room N– 3647, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone 202– 693–1999. For Technical Inquiries: Audrey Profitt, Senior Industrial Hygienist, Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Room N–3119, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone: 202–693–2190, or fax: 202–693–1681. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This Federal Register document sets out OSHA’s proposed interpretation of feasible administrative or engineering controls in 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b) for the purpose of enforcing compliance with these standards. This document does not address feasibility in any other context. Sections 1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b), which are substantively identical, require that when employees are exposed to sound exceeding the permissible level, feasible administrative or engineering controls must be utilized to reduce the sound to within that level, and if such controls are ineffective, personal protective equipment must be provided and used. Feasibility encompasses both economic and technological considerations, but this document addresses only economic feasibility. Under OSHA’s current enforcement policy, the agency issues citations for failure to use engineering and administrative controls only when hearing protectors are ineffective or the costs of such controls are less than the cost of an effective hearing conservation program. As discussed below, this policy is contrary to the plain meaning of the standard and thwarts the safety and health purposes of the OSH Act by rarely requiring administrative and engineering controls even though these E:\FR\FM\19OCP1.SGM 19OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules controls are affordable and generally more effective than hearing protectors in reducing noise exposure. Accordingly, OSHA now proposes to consider administrative or engineering controls economically feasible when the cost of implementing such controls will not threaten the employer’s ability to remain in business, or if such a threat to viability results from the employer’s failure to meet industry safety and health standards. I. Regulatory Background Section 6(a) of the OSH Act required the Secretary, during the two-year period following the Act’s effective date, to promulgate as an OSHA standard any national consensus standard and established Federal standard unless she determined that the promulgation of such a standard would not result in improved safety or health. 29 U.S.C. 655(a). Pursuant to section 6(a), OSHA promulgated the general industry noise standard as an ‘‘established federal standard’’ in 1971. 36 FR 10466, 10518, May 29, 1971 (codified as § 1910.95). Section 1910.95(b)(1) is derived from 41 CFR 50–204.10, an occupational noise exposure standard promulgated under the Walsh-Healey Government Contracts Act, 41 U.S.C. 35–45, which requires that federal government contracts for materials over $10,000 must provide that the work be done under sanitary and safe working conditions, 41 U.S.C. 35(d). The requirements of the WalshHealey Act noise standard are the same as those of the OSH Act noise standard. Compare 41 CFR 50–204.10(b) with 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1). Section 1910.95(b)(1) states as follows: jlentini on DSKJ8SOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS When employees are subjected to sound exceeding those listed in Table G–16, feasible administrative or engineering controls shall be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels within the levels of Table G–16, personal protective equipment shall be provided and used to reduce sound levels within the levels of the table. § 1910.95(b)(1). OSHA also promulgated the construction noise standard, originally codified at 29 CFR 1518.52, as an ‘‘established federal standard’’ in 1971. 36 FR 10466, 10469, May 29, 1971. Before being adopted unchanged as an OSH Act standard, section 1518.52(b) was issued under the Construction Safety Act, 40 U.S.C. 333 (1969), which requires that federal construction contracts for over $100,000 must provide that the work be done under sanitary and safe working conditions. 40 U.S.C. 3704(a)(1) (formerly cited as 40 U.S.C. 333(a)(1)); 36 FR 7340, 7348, April 17, 1971. At the end of 1971, VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Oct 18, 2010 Jkt 223001 § 1518.52(b) was redesignated as § 1926.52(b), 36 FR 25232, Dec. 30, 1971, its current codification. Section 1926.52(b) is almost verbatim identical to § 1910.95(b)(1) and provides: When employees are subjected to sound exceeding those listed in Table D–2 of this section, feasible administrative or engineering controls shall be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels within the levels of the table, personal protective equipment as required in subpart E, shall be provided and used to reduce sound levels within the levels of the table. § 1926.52(b).1 Engineering controls involve modifications to plant, equipment, processes or materials that reduce the sound intensity at the source, by substituting quieter machines and processes, or by isolating the machine or its operator. See Forging Indus. Ass’n v. Secretary of Labor, 773 F.2d 1436, 1440 n.3 (4th Cir. 1985) (en banc); Donovan v. Castle & Cooke Foods, 692 F.2d 641, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1982). Administrative controls involve modifications of work assignments to reduce employees’ exposure to noise, such as rotating employees so that they work in noisy areas for a short time. Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440 n.3. Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes hearing protectors such as ear plugs and ear muffs fitted to individual employees. Castle & Cooke, 692 F.2d at 643 n.2. II. Interpretive History of Economically Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls A. Current Enforcement Policy OSHA’s early interpretive guidance on 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) indicated that feasible engineering or administrative controls must be used to reduce noise to acceptable levels and that PPE must be used as a supplement when such controls are not completely effective in achieving this objective. Letter from Barry J. White, OSHA Assistant Secretary for Regional Programs, to Leslie Anderson (March 19, 1975). In the following decade, OSHA issued citations to employers for failure to use affordable engineering and administrative controls to reduce noise levels. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission issued a series of decisions swinging back and forth between a cost-benefit interpretation of economically feasible controls and a broader, plain-meaning definition of the term as ‘‘capable of 1 Table D–2 of § 1926.52(b) is identical to Table G–16 of § 1910.95(b)(1). PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64217 being done.’’ The Commission ultimately settled on the cost-benefit interpretation.2 Although OSHA has not changed its interpretation of the standard, its enforcement policy since 1983 has allowed employers to rely on a hearing conservation program based on PPE if such a program reduces noise exposures to acceptable levels and is less costly than administrative and engineering controls. The development of the case law in this area is described below.3 B. Commission and Court of Appeals Interpretations of Feasible The Commission first addressed section 1910.95(b)(1) in Continental Can Co., 4 BNA OSHC 1541, 1547 (Nos. 3973, 4397, 4501, 4853, 5327, 7122, 7910 & 7920, 1976). There, the Commission rejected the Secretary’s argument that the costs of noisereducing engineering controls are not relevant unless they would seriously jeopardize the financial health of the company. The Commission held that, in determining whether controls are economically feasible, all the relevant costs and benefit factors must be weighed. Ibid. The Commission refined this cost-benefit interpretation in Castle & Cooke Foods, 5 BNA OSHC 1435, 1438 (No. 10925, 1977), aff’d, 692 F.2d 641 (9th Cir. 1982), holding that engineering controls are economically feasible only if the health benefits to employees from noise reduction justify the cost to the employer. Applying this test, the Commission found that, although engineering controls would reduce ambient noise in Castle & Cooke’s plants to within the limits of Table G–16, the hearing loss avoided by such a reduction would not be lifethreatening or, in most cases, seriously debilitating. Id. at 1440. Rejecting the Secretary’s position that engineering controls were affordable, that the health benefits of such controls would be significant, and that hearing protectors were less effective, the Commission concluded that the health benefits did not justify the cost of implementing engineering controls. Ibid. The Secretary 2 To an economist, cost-benefit analysis contemplates an actual quantitative comparison of costs and benefits, typically through the conversion of all benefits and costs to monetary values. In the Castle & Cooke Foods case, discussed below, the Commission found that the health benefits of engineering controls did not justify their costs without monetizing the benefits and without explaining its valuation method. Although this approach would not constitute cost-benefit analysis in the sense used by economists, this document will refer to it as a cost-benefit test because that is the terminology used by the Commission. 3 OSHA has not interpreted, and the Commission has not construed, the virtually identical language of § 1926.52(b). E:\FR\FM\19OCP1.SGM 19OCP1 jlentini on DSKJ8SOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS 64218 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules appealed Castle & Cooke to the Ninth Circuit, and while that case was pending, the Supreme Court decided American Textile Mfgs. Institute, Inc. v. Donovan (ATM), 452 U.S. 490, 508–11 (1981). In ATMI, the Court held that feasible in section 6(b)(5) of the OSH Act, which requires that the Secretary promulgate standards for toxic substances at the most protective level, ‘‘to the extent feasible,’’ means ‘‘capable of being done,’’ and therefore rules out balancing costs and benefits. ATMI, 452 U.S. at 508–09. The Ninth Circuit rejected the Secretary’s argument that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of feasible in section 6(b)(5) was controlling as to the meaning of the same term in § 1910.95(b)(1). Believing itself bound to defer to the Commission’s expertise in interpreting the standard, the Ninth Circuit distinguished ATMI on the ground that the Court’s holding was limited to section 6(b)(5) standards and left open whether the general requirement in section 3(8) of the Act that OSHA standards be ‘‘reasonably necessary’’ might support cost-benefit analysis for standards issued under provisions other than section 6(b)(5).4 Donovan v. Castle & Cooke Foods, 692 F.2d 641, 648–49 (9th Cir. 1982). On this basis, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Commission was ‘‘free to exercise its authority to interpret the [standard]’’ and the Commission’s cost-benefit interpretation was neither unreasonable nor arbitrary. Id. at 649 In December 1982, a month after the Ninth Circuit affirmed Castle & Cooke, the Commission reinterpreted the word feasible in section 1910.95(b)(1) in light of ATMI. Sun Ship, Inc., 11 BNA OSHC 1028 (No. 16118, 1982). Rejecting the Ninth Circuit’s analysis as ‘‘divergent,’’ two Commissioners agreed that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of feasible in section 6(b)(5) controls the meaning of the same term in the noise standard, and precludes balancing the health benefits of engineering controls against their costs. Sun Ship, 11 BNA OSHC at 1031–32. Administrative and engineering controls are economically feasible, the Commission held, if their cost does not threaten the cited employer’s long-term profitability and competitiveness, or if the employer’s inability to afford these controls results from having lagged behind the industry in providing safety or health protection 4 Section 3(8) of the Act defines an occupational safety and health standard as one ‘‘which requires conditions, or the adoption or use of one or more practices, means, methods, operations or processes reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment and places of employment.’’ 29 U.S.C. 652(8). VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Oct 18, 2010 Jkt 223001 for employees. Id. at 1033. Chairman Rowland dissented, arguing that the fact that the Commission had previously been unable to agree on the meaning of feasible, indicated that § 1910.95(b)(1) lacked ascertainable criteria for its enforcement and was therefore unenforceable as written. Id. at 1037–43. In 1984, the Commission overruled Sun Ship in a split decision in which the two majority commissioners presented different rationales. SherwinWilliams Co., 11 BNA OSHC 2105, 2110–11 (No. 14131, 1984). In the majority opinion, Commissioner Buckley resurrected the Ninth Circuit’s Castle & Cooke analysis that the majority in Sun Ship had expressly rejected. Citing the Ninth Circuit’s holding that the Commission was not required by ATMI to abandon costbenefit analysis under § 1910.95(b)(1), and the fact that the Secretary had revised her enforcement policy in 1983 to accept a cost-benefit approach, Commissioner Buckley concluded that Sun Ship should be reexamined. Sherwin-Williams Co., 11 BNA OSHC at 2108–09. He also found that it was reasonable to believe that the government contractors bidding on Walsh-Healey Act contracts would have understood ‘‘feasible administrative and engineering controls’’ to mean those controls that were practical and costeffective. Id. at 2110. For these reasons, Commissioner Buckley concluded that cost-benefit analysis was incorporated into the noise standard upon its adoption under section 6(a) of the OSH Act. Ibid. Under this approach, if the employer produces evidence of the cost of controls, the Secretary must prove that ‘‘the benefit of the proposed engineering controls justifies their relative cost in comparison to other abatement methods.’’ Ibid. Chairman Rowland concurred in overruling Sun Ship, but for a different reason. Chairman Rowland restated the position he had taken in his dissent in Sun Ship that § 1910.95(b)(1) was unenforceable as written because it provided no ascertainable criteria for determining what administrative and engineering controls were ‘‘feasible’’ and impermissibly delegated authority to the Commission to decide what the standard meant. Sherwin-Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2111 (Rowland, Ch., concurring). Chairman Rowland noted, however, that absent agreement by two commissioners on the standard’s interpretation, the parties and administrative law judges would have no clear guidance on what principles to apply. Ibid. He concluded that ‘‘as between the test set forth in Sun Ship and the cost-benefit approach adopted PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 by Commissioner Buckley, I believe the later test represents the more reasoned result.’’ Ibid. Thus Chairman Rowland joined in adopting Commissioner Buckley’s cost-benefit test for determining the feasibility of engineering controls. Id. at 2112. Commissioner Cleary dissented, finding no grounds to overrule Sun Ship. Sherwin-Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2112–14 (Cleary, C., dissenting). He argued that the Court in ATMI determined that the plain meaning of feasible is ‘‘capable of being done,’’ and that the term therefore cannot be understood to incorporate a cost-benefit analysis. Id. at 2112. The fact that ATMI dealt with section 6(b)(5), rather than section 6(a), of the OSH Act was unimportant, in Commissioner Cleary’s view, because there is nothing in the Act to support giving the term feasible in the noise standard anything other than its plain, ordinary meaning. Id. at 2112–13. He also noted that acceptance of the majority’s cost-benefit approach would virtually eliminate engineering controls from the noise standard since earplugs or earmuffs will almost always cost less than effective engineering controls. Id. at 2113–14. In Commissioner Cleary’s view, the majority’s adoption of a cost-benefit test amounted to an unauthorized amendment of the standard. Id. at 2114. In response to the Ninth Circuit’s Castle & Cooke decision, OSHA adopted enforcement guidelines allowing employers to use PPE and a hearing conservation program, rather than engineering or administrative controls, when hearing protectors are less costly than such controls, unless noise levels are especially elevated CPL 2–2.35A, § G (Dec. 19, 1983). A hearing conservation program is one that meets the standard’s requirements for protecting employees from the harmful effects of noise at or above 85 decibels. See § 1910.95(c)–(o); Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440. Such a program includes monitoring, periodic audiometric testing, provision of hearing protectors, training and other elements. Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440–41. OSHA’s enforcement policy as set forth in the Field Operations Manual (FOM) authorizes citing employers for failing to use engineering and/or administrative controls only when (1) noise levels are so high—said to border on 100 dBA when the most effective hearing protectors are used—that hearing protectors alone will not reliably reduce noise to acceptable levels; or (2) the costs of such controls are less than the cost of an effective hearing conservation program. FOM, CPL 02–00–148, Chapt. 4 § XI.B.1 (Nov. E:\FR\FM\19OCP1.SGM 19OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules 655(b)(5), which requires that the Secretary set standards for toxic substances at the level which most adequately assures, ‘‘to the extent feasible,’’ that no employee will suffer material impairment of health. The Court found that the plain meaning of feasible is ‘‘capable of being done;’’ III. OSHA’s Interpretation of Economic ‘‘[t]hus, § 6(b)(5) directs the Secretary to Feasibility in 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) and issue the standard that ‘most adequately 1926.52(b) assures * * * that no employee will The legal landscape concerning the suffer material impairment of health,’ interpretation of § 1910.95(b)(1) (and limited only by the extent to which this therefore of the substantively identical is ‘capable of being done.’ ’’ ATMI, 452 § 1926.52(b)) has dramatically changed U.S. at 508–09. The Court further since the Ninth Circuit’s Castle & Cooke, concluded that Congress’s use of the and the Commission’s Sherwin-Williams word feasible in section 6(b)(5) ‘‘defined decisions. In Martin v. OSHRC (CF & I), the basic relationship between costs and 499 U.S. 144, 150–55 (1991), the benefits, by placing the ‘benefit’ of Supreme Court established that the worker health above all other Secretary is the administrative actor considerations save those making responsible for issuing authoritative attainment of this ‘benefit’ interpretations of OSHA standards, unachievable.’’ Id. at 509. Thus, the while the Commission’s role, as neutral feasibility analysis required by section arbiter, is to determine whether the 6(b)(5) necessarily rules out a balancing Secretary’s interpretation is reasonable. of costs and benefits. ‘‘[C]ost-benefit The Commission is not, as the Ninth analysis by OSHA is not required by the Circuit believed, free to exercise de statute because feasibility analysis is.’’ novo authority to interpret a standard, Ibid. and a court of appeals is to defer to the The Court’s analysis in ATMI governs Secretary’s interpretation if reasonable, the interpretation of §§ 1910.95(b)(1) not the Commission’s. Although OSHA and 1926.52(b). By requiring feasible has for some time acquiesced as a matter administrative or engineering controls to of enforcement policy in the be utilized when noise levels exceed Commission’s cost-benefit test for those specified in Table G–16, the determining the economic feasibility of standard directs employers to use those administrative and engineering controls controls capable of reducing exposures. under the noise standards, the agency The cost of such controls is relevant has decided that this approach is only to the extent that it is so high as inconsistent with the standards. For the to threaten the employer’s ability to stay reasons stated below, OSHA has in business. This construction is concluded that engaging in cost-benefit supported not only by the plain analysis under §§ 1910.95(b)(1) and meaning of feasible, but also by the 1926.52(b) is contrary to the plain canon of construction that regulatory meaning of feasibility and thwarts the language should be given the same safety and health purposes of the OSH meaning as the same language appearing Act and the standard. Therefore, OSHA in the statute. See Sun Ship, 11 BNA proposes to consider administrative or OSHC at 1032. engineering controls economically The 1984 Sherwin-Williams decision feasible under the noise standards when adopting a cost-benefit requirement for the cost of these controls will not the general industry noise standard threaten the cited employer’s ability to despite ATMI is plainly wrong and stay in business or when the threat to cannot stand. The Commission was viability results from the employer’s unable to agree on a rationale for having lagged behind the industry in overruling Sun Ship, in which the providing safety and health protection majority had held that the Supreme for employees. Court’s interpretation of feasible in The language of the noise standards section 6(b)(5) controlled the meaning of frames the analysis. The Supreme Court same term in § 1910.95(b)(1). Moreover, has held that the word feasible has the neither Commissioner Buckley’s plain meaning of ‘‘capable of being majority opinion nor Chairman done’’ and does not permit cost-benefit Rowland’s separate concurrence is analysis. The noise standards require persuasive. that ‘‘feasible administrative or Commissioner Buckley identified two engineering controls’’ be utilized when factors which he believed supported noise is excessive. In ATMI, the rejecting the plain meaning of ‘‘feasible’’ Supreme Court considered the meaning in favor of a cost-benefit approach. The of the word feasible in the context of first factor, taken from the Ninth section 6(b)(5) of the OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. Circuit’s Castle & Cooke decision, is that jlentini on DSKJ8SOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS 9, 2009). Since effective engineering and administrative controls almost always cost more than a hearing conservation program based on hearing protectors, citations are rarely issued for failure to use such controls under OSHA’s current policy. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Oct 18, 2010 Jkt 223001 PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64219 ATMI did not address whether section 3(8) of the OSH Act, which defines an occupational safety or health standard, in part, as one requiring ‘‘reasonably necessary’’ measures, requires a costbenefit analysis for standards issued under provisions other than section 6(b)(5). The Ninth Circuit inferred from the Court’s failure to address this issue that ATMI did not require the Commission to abandon a cost-benefit approach to a noise standard issued under section 6(a). Donovan v. Castle & Cooke Foods, 692 F.2d at 649. The Ninth Circuit’s reasoning, however, is seriously flawed. As a threshold matter, the Secretary has rejected the notion that section 3(8)’s ‘‘reasonably necessary’’ language imposes a requirement for cost-benefit analysis even for standards not subject to section 6(b)(5)’s feasibility constraint. In response to litigation arising under the lockout/tagout standard, the Secretary concluded that section 3(8) does not require a formal cost-benefit analysis—in which all the costs and benefits of a particular action are identified, quantified and compared— for safety standards, which are issued under section 6(b) but are not subject to section 6(b)(5). 58 FR 16612, 16622, Mar. 30, 1993 (Supplemental Statement of Reasons); International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America, UAW v. OSHA, 37 F.3d 665, 669–70 (D.C. Cir. 1994). The Secretary’s interpretation of section 3(8), as published in her Federal Register supplemental statement, is entitled to deference as long as it is reasonable. United States v. Mead Corp., 553 U.S. 218, 226–27 (2001). Moreover, cost-benefit analysis is inconsistent with the text of § 1910.95(b)(1). Section 6(a) required the Secretary to promulgate the existing Walsh-Healey noise standard as an OSHA standard unless it would not result in improved safety or health. OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. 655(a). The statutorily mandated standard requires feasible controls to be used to reduce exposure. To read section 3(8) as imposing a requirement that controls be used only if the benefits justify the cost would eviscerate the feasible controls requirement that section 6(a) required the Secretary to promulgate. The standard makes administrative and engineering controls the primary means of compliance; only if such controls are infeasible, i.e., so costly as to imperil the employer’s long-term viability, may employers use hearing protectors. Section 1910.95(b)(1); Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440. Yet the Commission’s cost-benefit approach completely reverses this E:\FR\FM\19OCP1.SGM 19OCP1 jlentini on DSKJ8SOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS 64220 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules priority; hearing protectors may be used unless they cost more than the engineering controls necessary to achieve an equivalent noise reduction. Castle & Cooke, 5 BNA OSHC at 1441. Under the Commission’s interpretation, hearing protectors are presumptively appropriate, even if administrative and engineering controls are affordable and effective. Just as Congress could not have intended the general language of section 3(8) to countermand the specific feasibility requirement of section 6(b)(5), ATMI, 452 U.S. at 513, Congress could not have understood that section 3(8) would eviscerate the specific requirements of the existing federal standards that the Secretary was required by section 6(a) to adopt during the two-year period following the OSH Act’s effective date. For § 1910.95(b)(1), no less than standards promulgated under section 6(b)(5), the term ‘‘feasible’’ defines ‘‘the basic relationship between costs and benefits by placing the ‘benefit’ of worker health above all other considerations save those making attainment of this ‘benefit’ unachievable * * *. Thus, cost-benefit analysis * * * is not required by the statute because feasibility analysis is.’’ ATMI, 452 U.S. at 509. The second factor identified by Commissioner Buckley for departing from the plain meaning of ‘‘feasible’’ in § 1910.95(b)(1) is even less persuasive. Although the Commissioner found no regulatory or adjudicative history indicating how the standard was interpreted under the Walsh-Healey Act, he assumed that government contractors bidding on Walsh-Healey Act contracts would not have construed the term ‘‘feasible’’ in accordance with the dictionary definition, but rather would have understood the term to allow for cost-benefit analysis. Sherwin-Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2109–10. Commissioner Buckley’s assumptions about the competitive bidding process under the Walsh-Healey Act are both irrelevant and unfounded. They are irrelevant because § 1910.95(b)(1), was promulgated under § 6(a) of the OSH Act as an ‘‘occupational safety and health standard.’’ 29 U.S.C. 655(a). The Secretary is responsible for issuing authoritative interpretations of OSHA standards, and she is not bound by the perspective of a hypothetical government contractor bidding on a Walsh-Healey contract. CF & I, 499 U.S. at 150–55. The Secretary’s interpretation of § 1910.95(b)(1) must be given effect if it is reasonable, ‘‘that is, so long as the interpretation sensibly conforms to the purpose and wording of the regulations.’’ Id. at 150–51. Construing the standard to require that VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Oct 18, 2010 Jkt 223001 administrative or engineering controls be used as long as they do not threaten the employer’s ability to stay in business is consistent with the standard’s plain meaning and its purpose of protecting employee health by achieving reductions in noise exposure. It is the Secretary’s reasonable construction of the standard, which constitutes an exercise of delegated lawmaking authority when embodied in an OSHA citation, that is entitled to deference, not the Commission’s interpretation. Id. at 150–55. Speculation about how government contractors might have interpreted the standard in bidding on a Walsh-Healey contract is wholly irrelevant. In any event, Commissioner Buckley’s assumption as to how the ‘‘feasible’’ controls requirement would have been interpreted in the federal procurement context is entirely unfounded. First, as the commissioner himself admitted, there is nothing in the regulatory or adjudicatory history of the WalshHealey noise standard to support an assumption that feasible was not understood by government contractors to have its plain, ordinary meaning. Commissioner Buckley’s interpretation thus violated the fundamental canon of construction that words are to be interpreted in accordance with their normal meaning unless there is specific evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, the notion that prospective contractors would have understood that they should include the costs of engineering controls only if they determined that the benefits outweighed the costs is completely contrary to basic principles of government procurement. SherwinWilliams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2109–10. The competitive process requires that all prospective contractors bid on the same requirements; the process cannot possibly permit some bidders to decide for themselves whether engineering controls are required, or not required. Thus, feasible controls must have been understood—by both the government and its contractors—in accordance with its plain meaning. OSHA’s current enforcement policy on § 1910.95(b)(1) closely tracks the Commission’s cost-benefit approach. Where PPE and a hearing conservation program are cheaper, the current enforcement policy allows employers to rely on them, rather than administrative or engineering controls, unless noise levels are so high that PPE will not reduce noise exposure to acceptable levels.5 FOM, CPL 02–00–148, § XI.B. The policy provides, moreover, that PPE may be used up to 100 dBA. Ibid. As discussed above, this policy is inconsistent with the noise standards’ explicit requirement that feasible administrative and engineering controls be used to reduce noise exposures to the level set by the standard and that PPE be used if administrative and engineering controls are unable to reduce noise to permitted levels. The standards’ reliance on feasible engineering and administrative controls as the primary means of reducing noise exposures is consistent with OSHA’s traditional adherence to a hierarchy of preferred controls, and is supported by good industrial hygiene practice and OSHA’s experience in assuring that workers have a healthy workplace. See, e.g., OSHA, 29 CFR parts 1915, 1917–18 & 1926, ‘‘Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium,’’ Final Rule, 71 FR 10100, 10345, Feb. 28, 2006 (discussing methods of compliance for reducing exposures to hexavalent chromium). Hearing protectors are less reliable than administrative and engineering controls in reducing noise levels and maintaining such reductions over time. OSHA’s current enforcement policy virtually eliminates the requirement to use administrative or engineering controls since such controls almost always cost more than hearing protectors. Furthermore, the current policy thwarts the safety and health purposes of the OSH Act by rarely requiring administrative and engineering controls even though these controls are generally more effective than hearing protectors in reducing noise exposure. Accordingly, OSHA now proposes to interpret §§ 1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b) in conformity with the plain meaning of these provisions and with the safety and health purposes of the OSH Act. OSHA proposes to interpret the term feasible in these provisions as having the same meaning that the term has in section 6(b)(5) of the Act, i.e., ‘‘capable of being done,’’ or ‘‘achievable.’’ OSHA also proposes to consider administrative or engineering controls economically feasible if they will not threaten the employer’s ability to remain in business or if the threat to viability results from the employer’s having failed to keep up with industry safety and health standards. OSHA further intends to change its enforcement policy to authorize the issuance of citations requiring the use of administrative or engineering controls when these controls are feasible in 5 In the terminology economists normally employ, the current enforcement policy would be better characterized as a least-cost, rather than a benefitcost, approach. PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\19OCP1.SGM 19OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules accordance with this interpretation. OSHA welcomes comments from interested parties on this proposed interpretation. Authority: 29 U.S.C. 655; 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) & 1926.52(b); Secretary’s Order 5–200, 72 FR 31160, June 5, 2007. Signed at Washington, DC, October 12, 2010. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. [FR Doc. 2010–26135 Filed 10–18–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4510–29–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 49 [EPA–R09–OAR–2010–0683; FRL–9213–7] Source Specific Federal Implementation Plan for Implementing Best Available Retrofit Technology for Four Corners Power Plant: Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to promulgate a source specific Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) requiring the Four Corners Power Plant (FCPP), located on the Navajo Nation, to achieve emissions reductions required by the Clean Air Act’s Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) provision. In this action, EPA is proposing to require FCPP to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants are significant contributors to visibility impairment in the numerous mandatory Class I Federal areas surrounding FCPP. For NOX emissions, EPA is proposing to require FCPP to meet an emission limit of 0.11 lb/MMBtu, representing an 80% reduction from current NOX emissions. This NOX limit is achievable by installing and operating Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology on Units 1–5. For PM, EPA is proposing to require FCPP to meet an emission limit of 0.012 lb/MMBtu for Units 1–3 and 0.015 lb/MMBtu for Units 4 and 5. These emissions limits are achievable by installing and operating any of several equivalent controls on Units 1–3, and through proper operation of the existing baghouse on Units 4 and 5. EPA is proposing to require FCPP to meet a 10% opacity limit on Units 1– 5 to ensure proper operation of the PM controls. EPA is requesting comment on jlentini on DSKJ8SOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Oct 18, 2010 Jkt 223001 whether APS can satisfy BART on Units 1–3 by operating the existing venturi scrubbers to meet an emission limit of 0.03 lb/MMBtu with a 20% opacity limit. EPA is also proposing to require FCPP to comply with a 20% opacity limit on its coal and material handling operations. DATES: Comments must be submitted no later than December 20, 2010. ADDRESSES: Submit comments, identified by docket number EPA–R09– OAR–2010–0683, by one of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the on-line instructions. E-mail: r9air_fcppbart@epa.gov. Mail or deliver: Anita Lee (Air-3), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IX, 75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105–3901. Instructions: All comments will be included in the public docket without change and may be made available online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, unless the comment includes Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Information that you consider CBI or otherwise protected should be clearly identified as such and should not be submitted through http://www.regulations.gov or e-mail. http://www.regulations.gov is an ‘‘anonymous access’’ system, and EPA will not know your identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you send email directly to EPA, your e-mail address will be automatically captured and included as part of the public comment. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to consider your comment. Hearings: EPA intends to hold public hearings in two locations in New Mexico to accept oral and written comments on the proposed rulemaking. EPA anticipates these hearings will occur in Shiprock and Farmington. EPA will provide notice and additional details at least 30 days prior to the hearings in the Federal Register, on our Web site, and in the docket. Docket: The index to the docket for this action is available electronically at http://www.regulations.gov and in hard copy at EPA Region IX, 75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, California. While all documents in the docket are listed in the index, some information may be publicly available only at the hard copy location (e.g., copyrighted material), and some may not be publicly available in PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64221 either location (e.g., CBI). To inspect the hard copy materials, please schedule an appointment during normal business hours with the contact listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anita Lee, EPA Region IX, (415) 972– 3958, r9air_fcppbart@epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Throughout this document, ‘‘we’’, ‘‘us’’, and ‘‘our’’ refer to EPA. Table of Contents I. Background A. Statutory and Regulatory Framework for Addressing Visibility B. Statutory and Regulatory Framework for Addressing Sources Located in Indian Country C. Statutory and Regulatory Framework for BART Determinations D. Factual Background 1. Four Corners Power Plant 2. Relationship of NOX and PM to Visibility Impairment II. EPA’s Proposed Action Based on Five Factors Test A. A BART Determination for FCPP Is Necessary or Appropriate B. Summary of Proposed BART Emission Limits C. Available and Feasible Control Technologies and Five Factor Analysis for NOX Emissions i. Factor 1: Cost of Compliance ii. Factor 2: Energy and Non-Air Quality Impacts iii. Factor 3: Existing Controls at the Facility iv. Factor 4: Remaining Useful Life of Facility v. Factor 5: Degree of Visibility Improvement D. Available and Feasible Control Technologies and Five Factor Analysis for PM Emissions i. Factor 1: Cost of Compliance ii. Factor 2: Energy and Non-Air Quality Impacts iii. Factor 3: Existing Controls at the Facility iv. Factor 4: Remaining Useful Life of Facility v. Factor 5: Degree of Visibility Improvement III. EPA’s Proposed Action on Material Handling Limits IV. Administrative Requirements A. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Planning and Review B. Paperwork Reduction Act C. Regulatory Flexibility Act D. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act E. Executive Order 13132: Federalism F. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments G. Executive Order 13045: Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks H. Executive Order 13211: Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use E:\FR\FM\19OCP1.SGM 19OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 201 (Tuesday, October 19, 2010)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 64216-64221]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-26135]


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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

[Docket No. OSHA-2010-0032]

29 CFR Parts 1910 and 1926


Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative 
or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise

AGENCY: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

ACTION: Proposed interpretation.

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SUMMARY: This document constitutes OSHA's official interpretation of 
the term feasible administrative or engineering controls as used in the 
applicable sections of OSHA's General Industry and Construction 
Occupational Noise Exposure standards. Under the standard, employers 
must use administrative or engineering controls rather than personal 
protective equipment (PPE) to reduce noise exposures that are above 
acceptable levels when such controls are feasible. OSHA proposes to 
clarify that feasible as used in the standard has its ordinary meaning 
of capable of being done. The Agency intends to revise its current 
enforcement policy to reflect this interpretation. The Agency solicits 
comments from interested parties on this interpretation.

DATES: Submit comments on or before December 20, 2010.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
    Electronically: You may submit comments and attachments 
electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal. Follow the instructions online for making electronic 
submissions;
    Fax: You may fax submissions not longer than 10 pages, including 
attachments, to the OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648.
    Mail, hand delivery, express mail, messenger and courier service: 
If you use this option, you must submit three copies of your comments 
and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2010-0032, 
U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., 
Washington, DC 20210. Deliveries (hand, express mail, messenger and 
courier service) are accepted from 8:15 a.m.-4:45 p.m., e.t.
    Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and the 
OSHA docket number for this interpretation (OSHA-2010-0032). 
Submissions are placed in the public docket without change and may be 
accessed online http://www.regulations.gov. Be careful about submitting 
personal information such as social security numbers and birth dates.
    Docket: To read or download submissions or other material in the 
docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov or the OSHA Docket Office at 
the address above. All documents in the docket are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index; some information (e.g., copyrighted 
material), however, can not be read or downloaded at the website. All 
submissions, including copyrighted material, can be examined or copied 
at the OSHA Docket Office.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  General information or press 
inquiries: MaryAnn Garrahan, Acting Director, Office of Communications, 
Room N-3647, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, 
NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone 202-693-1999.
    For Technical Inquiries: Audrey Profitt, Senior Industrial 
Hygienist, Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Room N-3119, OSHA, U.S. 
Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 
20210; telephone: 202-693-2190, or fax: 202-693-1681.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This Federal Register document sets out 
OSHA's proposed interpretation of feasible administrative or 
engineering controls in 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b) for the 
purpose of enforcing compliance with these standards. This document 
does not address feasibility in any other context. Sections 
1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b), which are substantively identical, 
require that when employees are exposed to sound exceeding the 
permissible level, feasible administrative or engineering controls must 
be utilized to reduce the sound to within that level, and if such 
controls are ineffective, personal protective equipment must be 
provided and used. Feasibility encompasses both economic and 
technological considerations, but this document addresses only economic 
feasibility. Under OSHA's current enforcement policy, the agency issues 
citations for failure to use engineering and administrative controls 
only when hearing protectors are ineffective or the costs of such 
controls are less than the cost of an effective hearing conservation 
program.
    As discussed below, this policy is contrary to the plain meaning of 
the standard and thwarts the safety and health purposes of the OSH Act 
by rarely requiring administrative and engineering controls even though 
these

[[Page 64217]]

controls are affordable and generally more effective than hearing 
protectors in reducing noise exposure. Accordingly, OSHA now proposes 
to consider administrative or engineering controls economically 
feasible when the cost of implementing such controls will not threaten 
the employer's ability to remain in business, or if such a threat to 
viability results from the employer's failure to meet industry safety 
and health standards.

I. Regulatory Background

    Section 6(a) of the OSH Act required the Secretary, during the two-
year period following the Act's effective date, to promulgate as an 
OSHA standard any national consensus standard and established Federal 
standard unless she determined that the promulgation of such a standard 
would not result in improved safety or health. 29 U.S.C. 655(a). 
Pursuant to section 6(a), OSHA promulgated the general industry noise 
standard as an ``established federal standard'' in 1971. 36 FR 10466, 
10518, May 29, 1971 (codified as Sec.  1910.95). Section 1910.95(b)(1) 
is derived from 41 CFR 50-204.10, an occupational noise exposure 
standard promulgated under the Walsh-Healey Government Contracts Act, 
41 U.S.C. 35-45, which requires that federal government contracts for 
materials over $10,000 must provide that the work be done under 
sanitary and safe working conditions, 41 U.S.C. 35(d). The requirements 
of the Walsh-Healey Act noise standard are the same as those of the OSH 
Act noise standard. Compare 41 CFR 50-204.10(b) with 29 CFR 
1910.95(b)(1).
    Section 1910.95(b)(1) states as follows:

    When employees are subjected to sound exceeding those listed in 
Table G-16, feasible administrative or engineering controls shall be 
utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels within the 
levels of Table G-16, personal protective equipment shall be 
provided and used to reduce sound levels within the levels of the 
table.

Sec.  1910.95(b)(1).

    OSHA also promulgated the construction noise standard, originally 
codified at 29 CFR 1518.52, as an ``established federal standard'' in 
1971. 36 FR 10466, 10469, May 29, 1971. Before being adopted unchanged 
as an OSH Act standard, section 1518.52(b) was issued under the 
Construction Safety Act, 40 U.S.C. 333 (1969), which requires that 
federal construction contracts for over $100,000 must provide that the 
work be done under sanitary and safe working conditions. 40 U.S.C. 
3704(a)(1) (formerly cited as 40 U.S.C. 333(a)(1)); 36 FR 7340, 7348, 
April 17, 1971. At the end of 1971, Sec.  1518.52(b) was redesignated 
as Sec.  1926.52(b), 36 FR 25232, Dec. 30, 1971, its current 
codification.
    Section 1926.52(b) is almost verbatim identical to Sec.  
1910.95(b)(1) and provides:

    When employees are subjected to sound exceeding those listed in 
Table D-2 of this section, feasible administrative or engineering 
controls shall be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound 
levels within the levels of the table, personal protective equipment 
as required in subpart E, shall be provided and used to reduce sound 
levels within the levels of the table.

Sec.  1926.52(b).\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Table D-2 of Sec.  1926.52(b) is identical to Table G-16 of 
Sec.  1910.95(b)(1).

    Engineering controls involve modifications to plant, equipment, 
processes or materials that reduce the sound intensity at the source, 
by substituting quieter machines and processes, or by isolating the 
machine or its operator. See Forging Indus. Ass'n v. Secretary of 
Labor, 773 F.2d 1436, 1440 n.3 (4th Cir. 1985) (en banc); Donovan v. 
Castle & Cooke Foods, 692 F.2d 641, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1982). 
Administrative controls involve modifications of work assignments to 
reduce employees' exposure to noise, such as rotating employees so that 
they work in noisy areas for a short time. Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 
1440 n.3. Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes hearing 
protectors such as ear plugs and ear muffs fitted to individual 
employees. Castle & Cooke, 692 F.2d at 643 n.2.

II. Interpretive History of Economically Feasible Administrative or 
Engineering Controls

 A. Current Enforcement Policy

    OSHA's early interpretive guidance on 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) 
indicated that feasible engineering or administrative controls must be 
used to reduce noise to acceptable levels and that PPE must be used as 
a supplement when such controls are not completely effective in 
achieving this objective. Letter from Barry J. White, OSHA Assistant 
Secretary for Regional Programs, to Leslie Anderson (March 19, 1975). 
In the following decade, OSHA issued citations to employers for failure 
to use affordable engineering and administrative controls to reduce 
noise levels. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission 
issued a series of decisions swinging back and forth between a cost-
benefit interpretation of economically feasible controls and a broader, 
plain-meaning definition of the term as ``capable of being done.'' The 
Commission ultimately settled on the cost-benefit interpretation.\2\ 
Although OSHA has not changed its interpretation of the standard, its 
enforcement policy since 1983 has allowed employers to rely on a 
hearing conservation program based on PPE if such a program reduces 
noise exposures to acceptable levels and is less costly than 
administrative and engineering controls. The development of the case 
law in this area is described below.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ To an economist, cost-benefit analysis contemplates an 
actual quantitative comparison of costs and benefits, typically 
through the conversion of all benefits and costs to monetary values. 
In the Castle & Cooke Foods case, discussed below, the Commission 
found that the health benefits of engineering controls did not 
justify their costs without monetizing the benefits and without 
explaining its valuation method. Although this approach would not 
constitute cost-benefit analysis in the sense used by economists, 
this document will refer to it as a cost-benefit test because that 
is the terminology used by the Commission.
    \3\ OSHA has not interpreted, and the Commission has not 
construed, the virtually identical language of Sec.  1926.52(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. Commission and Court of Appeals Interpretations of Feasible

    The Commission first addressed section 1910.95(b)(1) in Continental 
Can Co., 4 BNA OSHC 1541, 1547 (Nos. 3973, 4397, 4501, 4853, 5327, 
7122, 7910 & 7920, 1976). There, the Commission rejected the 
Secretary's argument that the costs of noise-reducing engineering 
controls are not relevant unless they would seriously jeopardize the 
financial health of the company. The Commission held that, in 
determining whether controls are economically feasible, all the 
relevant costs and benefit factors must be weighed. Ibid. The 
Commission refined this cost-benefit interpretation in Castle & Cooke 
Foods, 5 BNA OSHC 1435, 1438 (No. 10925, 1977), aff'd, 692 F.2d 641 
(9th Cir. 1982), holding that engineering controls are economically 
feasible only if the health benefits to employees from noise reduction 
justify the cost to the employer. Applying this test, the Commission 
found that, although engineering controls would reduce ambient noise in 
Castle & Cooke's plants to within the limits of Table G-16, the hearing 
loss avoided by such a reduction would not be life-threatening or, in 
most cases, seriously debilitating. Id. at 1440. Rejecting the 
Secretary's position that engineering controls were affordable, that 
the health benefits of such controls would be significant, and that 
hearing protectors were less effective, the Commission concluded that 
the health benefits did not justify the cost of implementing 
engineering controls. Ibid. The Secretary

[[Page 64218]]

appealed Castle & Cooke to the Ninth Circuit, and while that case was 
pending, the Supreme Court decided American Textile Mfgs. Institute, 
Inc. v. Donovan (ATM), 452 U.S. 490, 508-11 (1981). In ATMI, the Court 
held that feasible in section 6(b)(5) of the OSH Act, which requires 
that the Secretary promulgate standards for toxic substances at the 
most protective level, ``to the extent feasible,'' means ``capable of 
being done,'' and therefore rules out balancing costs and benefits. 
ATMI, 452 U.S. at 508-09. The Ninth Circuit rejected the Secretary's 
argument that the Supreme Court's interpretation of feasible in section 
6(b)(5) was controlling as to the meaning of the same term in Sec.  
1910.95(b)(1). Believing itself bound to defer to the Commission's 
expertise in interpreting the standard, the Ninth Circuit distinguished 
ATMI on the ground that the Court's holding was limited to section 
6(b)(5) standards and left open whether the general requirement in 
section 3(8) of the Act that OSHA standards be ``reasonably necessary'' 
might support cost-benefit analysis for standards issued under 
provisions other than section 6(b)(5).\4\ Donovan v. Castle & Cooke 
Foods, 692 F.2d 641, 648-49 (9th Cir. 1982). On this basis, the Ninth 
Circuit concluded that the Commission was ``free to exercise its 
authority to interpret the [standard]'' and the Commission's cost-
benefit interpretation was neither unreasonable nor arbitrary. Id. at 
649
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ Section 3(8) of the Act defines an occupational safety and 
health standard as one ``which requires conditions, or the adoption 
or use of one or more practices, means, methods, operations or 
processes reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or 
healthful employment and places of employment.'' 29 U.S.C. 652(8).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In December 1982, a month after the Ninth Circuit affirmed Castle & 
Cooke, the Commission reinterpreted the word feasible in section 
1910.95(b)(1) in light of ATMI. Sun Ship, Inc., 11 BNA OSHC 1028 (No. 
16118, 1982). Rejecting the Ninth Circuit's analysis as ``divergent,'' 
two Commissioners agreed that the Supreme Court's interpretation of 
feasible in section 6(b)(5) controls the meaning of the same term in 
the noise standard, and precludes balancing the health benefits of 
engineering controls against their costs. Sun Ship, 11 BNA OSHC at 
1031-32. Administrative and engineering controls are economically 
feasible, the Commission held, if their cost does not threaten the 
cited employer's long-term profitability and competitiveness, or if the 
employer's inability to afford these controls results from having 
lagged behind the industry in providing safety or health protection for 
employees. Id. at 1033. Chairman Rowland dissented, arguing that the 
fact that the Commission had previously been unable to agree on the 
meaning of feasible, indicated that Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) lacked 
ascertainable criteria for its enforcement and was therefore 
unenforceable as written. Id. at 1037-43.
    In 1984, the Commission overruled Sun Ship in a split decision in 
which the two majority commissioners presented different rationales. 
Sherwin-Williams Co., 11 BNA OSHC 2105, 2110-11 (No. 14131, 1984). In 
the majority opinion, Commissioner Buckley resurrected the Ninth 
Circuit's Castle & Cooke analysis that the majority in Sun Ship had 
expressly rejected. Citing the Ninth Circuit's holding that the 
Commission was not required by ATMI to abandon cost-benefit analysis 
under Sec.  1910.95(b)(1), and the fact that the Secretary had revised 
her enforcement policy in 1983 to accept a cost-benefit approach, 
Commissioner Buckley concluded that Sun Ship should be reexamined. 
Sherwin-Williams Co., 11 BNA OSHC at 2108-09. He also found that it was 
reasonable to believe that the government contractors bidding on Walsh-
Healey Act contracts would have understood ``feasible administrative 
and engineering controls'' to mean those controls that were practical 
and cost-effective. Id. at 2110. For these reasons, Commissioner 
Buckley concluded that cost-benefit analysis was incorporated into the 
noise standard upon its adoption under section 6(a) of the OSH Act. 
Ibid. Under this approach, if the employer produces evidence of the 
cost of controls, the Secretary must prove that ``the benefit of the 
proposed engineering controls justifies their relative cost in 
comparison to other abatement methods.'' Ibid.
    Chairman Rowland concurred in overruling Sun Ship, but for a 
different reason. Chairman Rowland restated the position he had taken 
in his dissent in Sun Ship that Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) was unenforceable 
as written because it provided no ascertainable criteria for 
determining what administrative and engineering controls were 
``feasible'' and impermissibly delegated authority to the Commission to 
decide what the standard meant. Sherwin-Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2111 
(Rowland, Ch., concurring). Chairman Rowland noted, however, that 
absent agreement by two commissioners on the standard's interpretation, 
the parties and administrative law judges would have no clear guidance 
on what principles to apply. Ibid. He concluded that ``as between the 
test set forth in Sun Ship and the cost-benefit approach adopted by 
Commissioner Buckley, I believe the later test represents the more 
reasoned result.'' Ibid. Thus Chairman Rowland joined in adopting 
Commissioner Buckley's cost-benefit test for determining the 
feasibility of engineering controls. Id. at 2112.
    Commissioner Cleary dissented, finding no grounds to overrule Sun 
Ship. Sherwin-Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2112-14 (Cleary, C., 
dissenting). He argued that the Court in ATMI determined that the plain 
meaning of feasible is ``capable of being done,'' and that the term 
therefore cannot be understood to incorporate a cost-benefit analysis. 
Id. at 2112. The fact that ATMI dealt with section 6(b)(5), rather than 
section 6(a), of the OSH Act was unimportant, in Commissioner Cleary's 
view, because there is nothing in the Act to support giving the term 
feasible in the noise standard anything other than its plain, ordinary 
meaning. Id. at 2112-13. He also noted that acceptance of the 
majority's cost-benefit approach would virtually eliminate engineering 
controls from the noise standard since earplugs or earmuffs will almost 
always cost less than effective engineering controls. Id. at 2113-14. 
In Commissioner Cleary's view, the majority's adoption of a cost-
benefit test amounted to an unauthorized amendment of the standard. Id. 
at 2114.
    In response to the Ninth Circuit's Castle & Cooke decision, OSHA 
adopted enforcement guidelines allowing employers to use PPE and a 
hearing conservation program, rather than engineering or administrative 
controls, when hearing protectors are less costly than such controls, 
unless noise levels are especially elevated CPL 2-2.35A, Sec.  G (Dec. 
19, 1983). A hearing conservation program is one that meets the 
standard's requirements for protecting employees from the harmful 
effects of noise at or above 85 decibels. See Sec.  1910.95(c)-(o); 
Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440. Such a program includes monitoring, 
periodic audiometric testing, provision of hearing protectors, training 
and other elements. Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440-41.
    OSHA's enforcement policy as set forth in the Field Operations 
Manual (FOM) authorizes citing employers for failing to use engineering 
and/or administrative controls only when (1) noise levels are so high--
said to border on 100 dBA when the most effective hearing protectors 
are used--that hearing protectors alone will not reliably reduce noise 
to acceptable levels; or (2) the costs of such controls are less than 
the cost of an effective hearing conservation program. FOM, CPL 02-00-
148, Chapt. 4 Sec.  XI.B.1 (Nov.

[[Page 64219]]

9, 2009). Since effective engineering and administrative controls 
almost always cost more than a hearing conservation program based on 
hearing protectors, citations are rarely issued for failure to use such 
controls under OSHA's current policy.

III. OSHA's Interpretation of Economic Feasibility in 29 CFR 
1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b)

    The legal landscape concerning the interpretation of Sec.  
1910.95(b)(1) (and therefore of the substantively identical Sec.  
1926.52(b)) has dramatically changed since the Ninth Circuit's Castle & 
Cooke, and the Commission's Sherwin-Williams decisions. In Martin v. 
OSHRC (CF & I), 499 U.S. 144, 150-55 (1991), the Supreme Court 
established that the Secretary is the administrative actor responsible 
for issuing authoritative interpretations of OSHA standards, while the 
Commission's role, as neutral arbiter, is to determine whether the 
Secretary's interpretation is reasonable. The Commission is not, as the 
Ninth Circuit believed, free to exercise de novo authority to interpret 
a standard, and a court of appeals is to defer to the Secretary's 
interpretation if reasonable, not the Commission's. Although OSHA has 
for some time acquiesced as a matter of enforcement policy in the 
Commission's cost-benefit test for determining the economic feasibility 
of administrative and engineering controls under the noise standards, 
the agency has decided that this approach is inconsistent with the 
standards. For the reasons stated below, OSHA has concluded that 
engaging in cost-benefit analysis under Sec. Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) and 
1926.52(b) is contrary to the plain meaning of feasibility and thwarts 
the safety and health purposes of the OSH Act and the standard. 
Therefore, OSHA proposes to consider administrative or engineering 
controls economically feasible under the noise standards when the cost 
of these controls will not threaten the cited employer's ability to 
stay in business or when the threat to viability results from the 
employer's having lagged behind the industry in providing safety and 
health protection for employees.
    The language of the noise standards frames the analysis. The 
Supreme Court has held that the word feasible has the plain meaning of 
``capable of being done'' and does not permit cost-benefit analysis. 
The noise standards require that ``feasible administrative or 
engineering controls'' be utilized when noise is excessive. In ATMI, 
the Supreme Court considered the meaning of the word feasible in the 
context of section 6(b)(5) of the OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. 655(b)(5), which 
requires that the Secretary set standards for toxic substances at the 
level which most adequately assures, ``to the extent feasible,'' that 
no employee will suffer material impairment of health. The Court found 
that the plain meaning of feasible is ``capable of being done;'' 
``[t]hus, Sec.  6(b)(5) directs the Secretary to issue the standard 
that `most adequately assures * * * that no employee will suffer 
material impairment of health,' limited only by the extent to which 
this is `capable of being done.' '' ATMI, 452 U.S. at 508-09. The Court 
further concluded that Congress's use of the word feasible in section 
6(b)(5) ``defined the basic relationship between costs and benefits, by 
placing the `benefit' of worker health above all other considerations 
save those making attainment of this `benefit' unachievable.'' Id. at 
509. Thus, the feasibility analysis required by section 6(b)(5) 
necessarily rules out a balancing of costs and benefits. ``[C]ost-
benefit analysis by OSHA is not required by the statute because 
feasibility analysis is.'' Ibid.
    The Court's analysis in ATMI governs the interpretation of 
Sec. Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b). By requiring feasible 
administrative or engineering controls to be utilized when noise levels 
exceed those specified in Table G-16, the standard directs employers to 
use those controls capable of reducing exposures. The cost of such 
controls is relevant only to the extent that it is so high as to 
threaten the employer's ability to stay in business. This construction 
is supported not only by the plain meaning of feasible, but also by the 
canon of construction that regulatory language should be given the same 
meaning as the same language appearing in the statute. See Sun Ship, 11 
BNA OSHC at 1032.
    The 1984 Sherwin-Williams decision adopting a cost-benefit 
requirement for the general industry noise standard despite ATMI is 
plainly wrong and cannot stand. The Commission was unable to agree on a 
rationale for overruling Sun Ship, in which the majority had held that 
the Supreme Court's interpretation of feasible in section 6(b)(5) 
controlled the meaning of same term in Sec.  1910.95(b)(1). Moreover, 
neither Commissioner Buckley's majority opinion nor Chairman Rowland's 
separate concurrence is persuasive.
    Commissioner Buckley identified two factors which he believed 
supported rejecting the plain meaning of ``feasible'' in favor of a 
cost-benefit approach. The first factor, taken from the Ninth Circuit's 
Castle & Cooke decision, is that ATMI did not address whether section 
3(8) of the OSH Act, which defines an occupational safety or health 
standard, in part, as one requiring ``reasonably necessary'' measures, 
requires a cost-benefit analysis for standards issued under provisions 
other than section 6(b)(5). The Ninth Circuit inferred from the Court's 
failure to address this issue that ATMI did not require the Commission 
to abandon a cost-benefit approach to a noise standard issued under 
section 6(a). Donovan v. Castle & Cooke Foods, 692 F.2d at 649. The 
Ninth Circuit's reasoning, however, is seriously flawed.
    As a threshold matter, the Secretary has rejected the notion that 
section 3(8)'s ``reasonably necessary'' language imposes a requirement 
for cost-benefit analysis even for standards not subject to section 
6(b)(5)'s feasibility constraint. In response to litigation arising 
under the lockout/tagout standard, the Secretary concluded that section 
3(8) does not require a formal cost-benefit analysis--in which all the 
costs and benefits of a particular action are identified, quantified 
and compared--for safety standards, which are issued under section 6(b) 
but are not subject to section 6(b)(5). 58 FR 16612, 16622, Mar. 30, 
1993 (Supplemental Statement of Reasons); International Union, United 
Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America, UAW 
v. OSHA, 37 F.3d 665, 669-70 (D.C. Cir. 1994). The Secretary's 
interpretation of section 3(8), as published in her Federal Register 
supplemental statement, is entitled to deference as long as it is 
reasonable. United States v. Mead Corp., 553 U.S. 218, 226-27 (2001).
    Moreover, cost-benefit analysis is inconsistent with the text of 
Sec.  1910.95(b)(1). Section 6(a) required the Secretary to promulgate 
the existing Walsh-Healey noise standard as an OSHA standard unless it 
would not result in improved safety or health. OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. 
655(a). The statutorily mandated standard requires feasible controls to 
be used to reduce exposure. To read section 3(8) as imposing a 
requirement that controls be used only if the benefits justify the cost 
would eviscerate the feasible controls requirement that section 6(a) 
required the Secretary to promulgate. The standard makes administrative 
and engineering controls the primary means of compliance; only if such 
controls are infeasible, i.e., so costly as to imperil the employer's 
long-term viability, may employers use hearing protectors. Section 
1910.95(b)(1); Forging Indus., 773 F.2d at 1440.
    Yet the Commission's cost-benefit approach completely reverses this

[[Page 64220]]

priority; hearing protectors may be used unless they cost more than the 
engineering controls necessary to achieve an equivalent noise 
reduction. Castle & Cooke, 5 BNA OSHC at 1441. Under the Commission's 
interpretation, hearing protectors are presumptively appropriate, even 
if administrative and engineering controls are affordable and 
effective. Just as Congress could not have intended the general 
language of section 3(8) to countermand the specific feasibility 
requirement of section 6(b)(5), ATMI, 452 U.S. at 513, Congress could 
not have understood that section 3(8) would eviscerate the specific 
requirements of the existing federal standards that the Secretary was 
required by section 6(a) to adopt during the two-year period following 
the OSH Act's effective date. For Sec.  1910.95(b)(1), no less than 
standards promulgated under section 6(b)(5), the term ``feasible'' 
defines ``the basic relationship between costs and benefits by placing 
the `benefit' of worker health above all other considerations save 
those making attainment of this `benefit' unachievable * * *. Thus, 
cost-benefit analysis * * * is not required by the statute because 
feasibility analysis is.'' ATMI, 452 U.S. at 509.
    The second factor identified by Commissioner Buckley for departing 
from the plain meaning of ``feasible'' in Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) is even 
less persuasive. Although the Commissioner found no regulatory or 
adjudicative history indicating how the standard was interpreted under 
the Walsh-Healey Act, he assumed that government contractors bidding on 
Walsh-Healey Act contracts would not have construed the term 
``feasible'' in accordance with the dictionary definition, but rather 
would have understood the term to allow for cost-benefit analysis. 
Sherwin-Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2109-10.
    Commissioner Buckley's assumptions about the competitive bidding 
process under the Walsh-Healey Act are both irrelevant and unfounded. 
They are irrelevant because Sec.  1910.95(b)(1), was promulgated under 
Sec.  6(a) of the OSH Act as an ``occupational safety and health 
standard.'' 29 U.S.C. 655(a). The Secretary is responsible for issuing 
authoritative interpretations of OSHA standards, and she is not bound 
by the perspective of a hypothetical government contractor bidding on a 
Walsh-Healey contract. CF & I, 499 U.S. at 150-55. The Secretary's 
interpretation of Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) must be given effect if it is 
reasonable, ``that is, so long as the interpretation sensibly conforms 
to the purpose and wording of the regulations.'' Id. at 150-51. 
Construing the standard to require that administrative or engineering 
controls be used as long as they do not threaten the employer's ability 
to stay in business is consistent with the standard's plain meaning and 
its purpose of protecting employee health by achieving reductions in 
noise exposure. It is the Secretary's reasonable construction of the 
standard, which constitutes an exercise of delegated law-making 
authority when embodied in an OSHA citation, that is entitled to 
deference, not the Commission's interpretation. Id. at 150-55. 
Speculation about how government contractors might have interpreted the 
standard in bidding on a Walsh-Healey contract is wholly irrelevant.
    In any event, Commissioner Buckley's assumption as to how the 
``feasible'' controls requirement would have been interpreted in the 
federal procurement context is entirely unfounded. First, as the 
commissioner himself admitted, there is nothing in the regulatory or 
adjudicatory history of the Walsh-Healey noise standard to support an 
assumption that feasible was not understood by government contractors 
to have its plain, ordinary meaning. Commissioner Buckley's 
interpretation thus violated the fundamental canon of construction that 
words are to be interpreted in accordance with their normal meaning 
unless there is specific evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, the 
notion that prospective contractors would have understood that they 
should include the costs of engineering controls only if they 
determined that the benefits outweighed the costs is completely 
contrary to basic principles of government procurement. Sherwin-
Williams, 11 BNA OSHC at 2109-10. The competitive process requires that 
all prospective contractors bid on the same requirements; the process 
cannot possibly permit some bidders to decide for themselves whether 
engineering controls are required, or not required. Thus, feasible 
controls must have been understood--by both the government and its 
contractors--in accordance with its plain meaning.
    OSHA's current enforcement policy on Sec.  1910.95(b)(1) closely 
tracks the Commission's cost-benefit approach. Where PPE and a hearing 
conservation program are cheaper, the current enforcement policy allows 
employers to rely on them, rather than administrative or engineering 
controls, unless noise levels are so high that PPE will not reduce 
noise exposure to acceptable levels.\5\ FOM, CPL 02-00-148, Sec.  XI.B. 
The policy provides, moreover, that PPE may be used up to 100 dBA. 
Ibid. As discussed above, this policy is inconsistent with the noise 
standards' explicit requirement that feasible administrative and 
engineering controls be used to reduce noise exposures to the level set 
by the standard and that PPE be used if administrative and engineering 
controls are unable to reduce noise to permitted levels. The standards' 
reliance on feasible engineering and administrative controls as the 
primary means of reducing noise exposures is consistent with OSHA's 
traditional adherence to a hierarchy of preferred controls, and is 
supported by good industrial hygiene practice and OSHA's experience in 
assuring that workers have a healthy workplace. See, e.g., OSHA, 29 CFR 
parts 1915, 1917-18 & 1926, ``Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent 
Chromium,'' Final Rule, 71 FR 10100, 10345, Feb. 28, 2006 (discussing 
methods of compliance for reducing exposures to hexavalent chromium). 
Hearing protectors are less reliable than administrative and 
engineering controls in reducing noise levels and maintaining such 
reductions over time. OSHA's current enforcement policy virtually 
eliminates the requirement to use administrative or engineering 
controls since such controls almost always cost more than hearing 
protectors. Furthermore, the current policy thwarts the safety and 
health purposes of the OSH Act by rarely requiring administrative and 
engineering controls even though these controls are generally more 
effective than hearing protectors in reducing noise exposure.
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    \5\ In the terminology economists normally employ, the current 
enforcement policy would be better characterized as a least-cost, 
rather than a benefit-cost, approach.
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    Accordingly, OSHA now proposes to interpret Sec. Sec.  
1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b) in conformity with the plain meaning of 
these provisions and with the safety and health purposes of the OSH 
Act. OSHA proposes to interpret the term feasible in these provisions 
as having the same meaning that the term has in section 6(b)(5) of the 
Act, i.e., ``capable of being done,'' or ``achievable.'' OSHA also 
proposes to consider administrative or engineering controls 
economically feasible if they will not threaten the employer's ability 
to remain in business or if the threat to viability results from the 
employer's having failed to keep up with industry safety and health 
standards. OSHA further intends to change its enforcement policy to 
authorize the issuance of citations requiring the use of administrative 
or engineering controls when these controls are feasible in

[[Page 64221]]

accordance with this interpretation. OSHA welcomes comments from 
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interested parties on this proposed interpretation.

    Authority: 29 U.S.C. 655; 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1) & 1926.52(b); 
Secretary's Order 5-200, 72 FR 31160, June 5, 2007.

    Signed at Washington, DC, October 12, 2010.
David Michaels,
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 2010-26135 Filed 10-18-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-29-P