The 85-3 Coalition

In 1979 I took a job, my first job in the safety profession, as a Training Officer for the Accident Prevention Division (APD) of the Workers' Compensation Department in Salem, Oregon. Oregon had a State Plan with Federal OSHA, and one of my first assignments was training Safety Compliance Officers in the topic of Occupational Noise. The APD later became Oregon OSHA, but at that time noise was not well understood. The training program I put together took a day to complete, and was a comprehensive review of the state of the art at that time. I discussed the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit, and then described in easy language how to interpret results from sound level meters and apply them to the regulations under APD, which were the same as OSHA's federal regulations.

Skipping ahead to 2009, I was in an MSPH program through Tulane University's Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, in Industrial Hygiene and needed to complete my Capstone Project for the degree. So I started looking at different possible topics, and two that I thought would be interesting were the NIOSH Lifting Equation, and Occupational Noise. I decided to pursue the Capstone Project on Occupational Noise because this topic had been neglected for many years. My research showed that the same PEL that I taught in 1979 to Oregon's Safety Compliance Officers was still in effect in 2009, thirty years later. But the state of the science for occupational noise exposure had changed.

These changes came about because we gained a lot of knowledge of hearing loss, how it occurs and the driving forces for it. I joined the American Industrial Hygiene Association's Noise Committee, and then was asked if I could become the Secretary. I agreed, not realizing that this was a progressive step, and the next year I would become the Vice Chairman, and the third year I would become the Chairman of the Noise Committee. So I was able to discuss this problem of noise-induced hearing loss with the people in the field who were the experts, some of whom had written the AIHA book, The Noise Manual. At the same time, as a member of the ASSE Industrial Hygiene Section, my Capstone Project was published in ASSE's The Monitor as a three-part series. As a part of this process, I got to know people like Alice Suter and Scott Schneider, who were among those who started the 85–3 Coalition.

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