One year ago March 6th, the United States Senate voted to repeal OSHA’s workplace ergonomics standard. The House followed suit, and on March 20th President Bush repealed it with the promise to address the issue again later that fall.
Deadlines for action on ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace have come and gone without the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) making headway. With a year gone by, several groups are calling on OSHA to take action now.
On February 26, 2002, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) filed an official complaint with OSHA hoping to force the agency into taking action on ergonomics. The UFCW held a press briefing and announced it will file a complaint with OSHA under the general duty clause that will focuses on MSDs suffered by workers at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Lufkin, Texas.
“Workers with repetitive stress injuries at Pilgrim’s Pride Lufkin plant are given aspirin and ice and sent back to the production line,” said UFCW International Vice President John Rodriguez. “The surgeries we know about are at epidemic proportions as a result of conditions we haven’t seen for 20 years.”
“The majority of workers at the Lufkin plant, like most poultry plants, are new immigrants and minority workers. Companies exploit their fear and lack of information about workplace rights to silence their complaints and feed their own profits. Injuries go unreported and hazards go uncorrected. Well, the UFCW is breaking down that wall of silence at the Lufkin plant,” stated Rodriguez.
Also concerned about OSHA’s lack of action on ergonomics is the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions committee who on March 14, 2002, will hold hearings on the subject.
In June 2001, the Department of Labor announced it would hold three national public hearings on ergonomics. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao promised to take action by September, but has blamed the events of Sept. 11 for throwing her off schedule.