public hearingOSHA is getting an earful about upcoming regulations, in hearings being held across the country.

An estimated 80 people turned out for the OSHA hearing yesterday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina -- one of 11 cities hosting such events.

The first-ever preemptive public sessions are an attempt by the agency to get out in front of potential opposition to regulations. OSHA Assistant Regional Administrator R.A. Wendell said the early hearings are being held to prevent "so many adverse comments" when proposed regulations are made public.

In Winston-Salem, federal officials heard from steel fabricators, woodworkers and textile manufacturers.

T.L. Meadows, vice president of Salem Steel in Winston-Salem, said that some of the standards adopted immediately after the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 have been almost impossible to follow, and could adversely affect his industry.

"Most of the time accidents are human failure, not equipment or safety-feature failure."

Wendell heard industry representatives urge the agency to adopt general performance standards, but he said specific standards allow a compliance officer to more easily determine if a plant is following the regulations.

Wendell also said he had learned from the hearing that many suggested standards in the woodworking industry are now out-of-date.