After two years of discussions and meetings, coupled with a little controversy, the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE) delivered its final recommendations to its organizer OSHA in late November, 2004.
Does that mean the federal government is gearing up for a big announcement regarding the way it handles workplace ergonomics? For a handful of industries considered good candidates for more guidelines (see complete list below), possibly. But for most workplaces, and workers, the odds that any large-scale, mandatory compliance changes to ergonomics will occur in the near future are relatively slim.
So why isn’t the federal government taking immediate action to include NACE’s recommendations now, or possibly ever? Said chairman of the now-disbanded NACE Carter Kerk, Ph.D., CPE, making changes to the way the federal government approaches ergonomics was never the intent of the committee; suggesting means of reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders was.
“It wasn’t our job to [directly] impact workers,” said Kerk. Rather NACE’s charter put the committee in an advisory role, not an action-taking one. More specifically, the charter placed NACE in charge of providing OSHA with the following:
How It Played Out
In the process of meeting its charter, NACE divided the original five-part objective into three broad areas — research, guidelines, and outreach and assistance. The committee set up workgroups for each area, held discussions and developed specific recommendations. Additionally, NACE also held a symposium regarding current research on workplace MSDs, an event that garnered mild controversy within the field of ergonomics from other members of the industry who felt that the topics being discussed were already well-established facts and that a rehashing of already-accepted information was just a tactic of the current government administration to avoid taking acting on workplace ergonomics (see “Prominent Ergonomics Experts Boycott OSHA Symposium.” Ergonomics TodayTM. January 26, 2004.)
But Kerk, as the chairperson of NACE and an ergonomics practitioner and professor himself, noted that the administration has taken action regarding workplace ergonomics by publishing the first sets of ergonomics guidelines in over a decade. As for the symposium, Kerk considered the event a success. The research presented, he said, answered the questions that the 15 members of NACE
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2005-01-19.