On April 5th, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled what it called a comprehensive plan designed to dramatically reduce workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) through a combination of industry-targeted guidelines, tough enforcement measures, workplace outreach, advanced research, and dedicated efforts to protect Hispanic and other immigrant workers.
The plan immediately drew fire from critics who noted that OSHA did not name which industries it would target.
On April 17th, OSHA announced that the first industry-specific guidelines to reduce MSDs will be developed for nursing homes. Representatives from the field have agreed to work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop a draft for public comment.
This comes on the heels of OSHA settling a 10 year battle with Beverly Enterprises. The settlement stipulates that lift assist devices must be used in nursing homes.
“We are serious about reducing injury and illness rates related to ergonomics as quickly as possible,” Chao said regarding the April 17th announcement. “We want to work with the nursing home profession and workers to develop guidelines to reduce the level of injuries and illnesses in this industry. Those who have chosen the nursing home profession are crucial to the quality care of our elderly and seriously ill family members. These devoted workers who care for our loved ones merit the care and attention they give others.”
“Nursing home workers suffer back injuries and other ergonomics-related problems. Our goal is to prevent these types of injuries and illnesses from occurring,” said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “I look forward to coordinating with the profession and workers to develop this first set of industry-specific guidelines to prevent ergonomics hazards. With the nursing shortage and other issues confronting this industry, it makes sound business sense for the stakeholders involved to be the first to tackle ergonomic problems in their industry.”
The draft guidelines are expected to be ready for public comment later this year. They will be published in the Federal Register for review before becoming final.
Additional information about workplace injuries was brought to light this month as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on Lost-worktime Injuries and Illnesses for the year 2000. According to the BLS, 23 industries experienced MSDs above the national average. It is expected that these industries, some of which are already the topic of electronic guidelines, will also be targeted.
For more information, the feature article in the April 2002 issue of Ergoweb’s new publication The Ergonomics Report