Reaching the half-way point in their two-year charter, members of the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE) are gearing up for their fourth meeting, a symposium featuring the latest research on work-related musculoskeletal disorders, scheduled for January 27 and 28 in Washington, D.C. And according to committee chair Carter Kerk, Ph.D., this meeting could prove to be one of the most valuable yet.
“[Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health] John Henshaw has told us that he’s very interested in [finding] research out there that can be used on a more practical level, and if [that] research fits into the business case for ergonomics,” says Kerk. Working with NIOSH as well as OSHA, NACE members put together a research symposium, initiating the process with a public call for abstracts and paring down the presentations to a mere ten. Each presentation at the January symposium, says Kerk, should help NACE and OSHA address workplace ergonomics.
The goals of NACE is to look at various components of OSHA’s four-pronged approach, including research, guidelines, outreach and education, and offer recommendations to OSHA regarding how each of these should be addressed.
While the two-year charter of NACE means that final recommendations on workplace ergonomics won’t be available until after the committee’s last meeting in September 2004, Kerk believes the group, only at its half-way point, has already made an impact.
“We’ve divided the committee into three workgroups for more focus, and each is developing recommendations,” Kerk told Ergoweb. While OSHA has the option to take the recommendations or not, already Kerk has seen several of the committee’s comments and suggestions put into practice, indicating that some “excellent sessions” on how the ergonomics section of OSHA’s website operated have already materialized as website improvements.
NACE meetings, says Kerk, are also more than just roundtable discussions of a handful of business leaders and ergonomics professionals. Kerk encourages anyone with opinions to attend the meetings or to contact him or another member of NACE with suggestions and recommendations. “We want people to give us feedback,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for ergonomists to give OSHA a recommendation in an inside way.”
Both the January 27 symposium and the January 28 NACE meeting are open to the public, although comments at the symposium will be limited to those from panelists and NACE members. The meetings will take place from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Hotel Washington at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. Kerk can be reached at email@example.com.