Better ergonomics, and reduction of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) have been a sticking point between New Era Cap Co., the supplier of caps to Major League Baseball, and labor who have been on strike for almost 8 months.
Union officials claim that New Era proposed production increases that would increase the risk of developing MSDs. In an attempt to end the strike, New Era created a proposal in which the company would make capital improvements to safely produce at an increased level. In addition to buying new equipment, the company said it would continue work with an outside consultant to address ergonomic issues.
Like many businesses that institute ergonomic improvements, New Era has seen bottom line benefits. Tim Freer, New Era’s human resources director has said, “What we have seen during that period is that the new engineered standards have produced the results the company anticipated. Efficiency is up, while absenteeism and lost-time injuries at the Derby plant are down, as was projected.”
Labor Unions have generally been supportive of increased ergonomics awareness. The AFL-CIO, a federation of unions representing 13 million working men and women and their families was a vocal supporter of OSHA’s rescinded ergonomics rules. And while it may seem that there is often a rift between business and labor, ergonomics has often been a bridging subject. For instance, in December of 2000, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formed a partnership to improve worker health and safety conditions in its manufacturing facilities.