On November 8, 2001, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Construction Safety
Symposium kicked off in New Orleans. Speaking to attendees was The Director of the OSHA Directorate on Construction Safety Standards Russell ‘Bruce’ Swanson. While the main focus of the conference was addressing injuries and fatalities in the construction industry, ergonomics did come up.
In response to an audience question on the status of an ergonomics standard, Swanson told the attendees today that before September 11 OSHA was about to announce their next steps on the ergonomic standard. However, in light of the 9/11 attacks much of their focus has been on New York City and the relief and rebuilding efforts.
“We lost an office in New York City due to the attacks,” Swanson said. “Luckily we did not lose any employees in that horrible tragedy. However, we have a large contingent of OSHA personnel working shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Ground Zero.”
On the issue of the ergonomics standard, Swanson said that perhaps this December or January the Department of Labor might come out with guidance on the issue. He also noted, as did many presenters at the symposium, that ergonomics is an issue in the construction industry. “I believe ergonomics will be recognized as a real life problem and that employers and safety professionals alike will work together
in seeking remedies and reducing the risk,” Swanson said. “OSHA will probably provide some outreach and educational programs. There probably will not be a mandatory standard.”
Swanson noted that OSHA, now led by the new Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA John Henshaw, will be focusing on leadership; strong and fair enforcement; outreach, education and compliance assistance; partnerships and improving data collection.
Separately, John Henshaw has responded to questions about ergonomics by saying that OSHA is very busy with hundreds of staff members working on safety consulting and air-quality testing around the World Trade Center site, and that OSHA also is developing bioterrorism guidance for employers.
“Certainly we’re strained at the moment,’ Henshaw said.