From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

OSHA Standard Debate Heats Up Again — Call to Action — Comments Due Soon

As we’ve reported previously, OSHA has proposed adding a column to the OSHA 300 log to capture musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The proposal has been somewhat fast-tracked, and the public is encouraged to review the proposal thoroughly and provide comments to the agency.  The comment period ends on March 15, 2010, and there will be a public meeting on March 9, 2010. Make no mistake about it — this debate has a significant impact on the profession and practice of ergonomics.

Among those representing the "right" in the coming debate will be the US Chamber of Commerce. Earlier this year I received an email from Marc Freedman, Executive Director of Labor Law Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce, announcing a January 25, 2010 meeting to “get everyone up to speed” on OSHA’s MSD recordkeeping proposal. Assuming it was a public meeting, I published the announcement in Ergonomics Today™.  According to ProPublica: Journalism in the Public Interest:

The Chamber held a closed-door meeting on Jan. 25 to discuss how to approach the new proposal. Freedman wouldn’t reveal who attended the meeting or discuss the Chamber’s plans. He said the only reason people outside the Chamber’s membership even knew about the meeting is because he accidentally e-mailed an invitation to someone who shouldn’t have been on the list.  Read the full article …

That "someone" Freedman accidently emailed was me.

ProPublica quotes Freedman further as saying:

"Attempts to put this recordkeeping requirement in place represent the first efforts to return to the ergonomics question," said Marc Freedman, the Chamber’s director of labor law policy. "We will be very involved in this rulemaking as it goes forward. We have a history with this issue."

Among those representing the "left" will be organized labor/unions. ProPublica quotes Peg Seminario, director of safety and health for the AFL-CIO union as saying:

"The industry is just looking for a fight. As soon as Obama was elected, it was clear that immediately there would be a war on ergonomics. This gives you a sense of how rabid they are that they don’t even want these injuries identified."

I’m curious. Are there any groups that represent the profession and practice of ergonomics preparing to comment, or will we be left in the dust and rubble of another high profile political football game in which ergonomics/ergonomists are the ball and extreme lobbyists are the game players? Is there an ergonomics industry group that is willing and able to step into the political fray to represent the nuts and bolts of the science and application of ergonomics? We’ve not seen one to date. Given the enormous impact previous regulatory debates have had, we can expect a rough ride ahead.

This isn’t the first time OSHA has proposed adding an MSD recordkeeping column to required injury tracking logs. Ergoweb has published numerous articles on MSD recordkeeping issues and the Clinton era ergonomics debate, and anyone interested in the subject would do well to review this history.

Also be sure to review the complete text of OSHA’s MSD recordkeeping poroposal.

What’s your opinion regarding an OSHA ergonomics standard? We’ve started a discussion in the Ergoweb Forums titled Should OSHA pursue a new ergonomics standard?, where any and all can share opinions – pro or con. Or, feel free to leave your comment below.