Michigan’s proposal for a mandatory ergonomics standard survived a death blow from business groups in 2006. In January 2009, it’s back on track, and could be in force this year.
The state’s regulators voted unanimously to advance it on January 14, despite opposition from the business community. Its supporters maintain the rule will reduce preventable injuries that cost employers millions in worker’s compensation and lost time. Opponents argue it will raise the cost of doing business at a time many employers are struggling because of the state’s ailing economy.
They prevailed in 2006. Michigan lawmakers passed a bill to prevent the state from adopting the rule in 2006.
The unanimous vote by the General Industry Safety Standards Commission and the Occupational Health Standards Commission increases the odds that efforts to derail the standard won’t succeed this time round.
According to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG), the proposed standard would “assess risk factors that may contribute to work-related musculoskeletal disorders and establish a minimal rule for training.” It also would apply only to businesses in general industry, not construction, DLEG said.
Public hearings will be held before the rule can be formally adopted by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). It could be in place in as little as six months.
Now in draft form, it requires:
• All employees to be given ergonomics training covering occupational risk factors for MSDs, symptoms, and reporting procedures
• Employers to be responsible for involving employees; assessing risk factors; and eliminating, reducing or controlling ergonomic hazards "where economically and technically feasible"
• Employers with an existing "effective ergonomic program" to be examined for prior compliance with the requirements
The Michigan Worker’s Compensation Bureau estimated that ergonomics-related hazards accounted for some 40 percent of the claims paid in the state in 2006 and 2007.
California is the only state with its own ergonomics rules. The federal government has voluntary ergonomics guidelines.
Sources: The Ergonomics Report™; Michigan Worker’s Compensation Bureau; Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth