The U.S. government’s approach to ergonomics continues to unfold. Here are a few of the latest events.
Grocery Stores, Poultry Processing Next in Line for Guidelines
On June 10th, Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health John Henshaw announced that grocery stores and poultry processing facilities will be the focus of the next two sets of industry-specific guidelines to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Representatives from both industries will work with OSHA to develop the guidelines.
President and CEO of the The National Grocers Association (N.G.A.), Tom Zaucha, applauded the cooperative effort and pledged to work with OSHA to develop guidelines that assist retailers in developing ergonomic solutions.
“The retail grocery industry is dedicated to providing a safe and healthy workplace. Employees are a company’s most important assets,” said Zaucha.
The poultry industry also pledged its support for the guidelines. “We are pleased to work with OSHA in developing these guidelines,” said Mike Klun, chairman of the poultry industry’s Joint Safety and Health Committee, formed by the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation. “The poultry industry has extensive experience in ergonomics, and many companies already have guidelines in place. We can contribute the lessons we have learned in how to avoid ergonomic problems and how to deal with them when they occur.”
Printing/Graphic Arts Associations and OSHA to Develop Best Practices
OSHA followed this up eight days later by announcing a partnership agreement with the Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation and the Screenprinting & Graphic Imaging Association International. The agencies have formally agreed to work together to share best practices and technical knowledge on ergonomics to foster prevention of injuries and illnesses in the printing and graphic arts industries.
Senate Committee Demands Ergo Regulations Within Two Years
Not seeing these actions as adequate, on June 19th, the Democrat-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved legislation sponsored by John Breaux (D-LA) requiring the Department of Labor (DOL) to create regulations to reduce workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
The 11-10 vote along party lines was opposed by Republicans who promised to block the vote when it reached the senate floor. Democrats plan to attach the bill to appropriations legislation instead of offering it for consideration as a stand-alone measure on the Senate floor.
Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, (D-MA) stated, “The administration’s plan to address this health crisis in the workplace replays failed strategies from the past. They rely on toothless voluntary guidelines that most corporations will simply ignore. These guidelines will be developed piecemeal, industry by industry, rather than covering workers at risk in all industries.”
In response to the committee passage, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) stated he would firmly oppose any effort to advance the bill. “Congress overturned the Clinton ergo rule with resounding, bipartisan certainty. The Breaux Bill would mandate that the invalidated Clinton ergonomics standard be resurrected from the dustbin of bad government policy,” Bond said. “The last thing our Main Street economy needs now is a colossal step backwards to embrace this job-killing, regulatory poison.”
Public Comment Sought: Should OSHA Delay MSD Recordkeeping Until 2004?
On July 1st, OSHA announced that it is seeking public comment on its proposal to delay the effective date of some recordkeeping provisions until January 1, 2004. One provision defines “musculoskeletal disorder (MSD)” and requires employers to check the MSD column on the OSHA Log if an employee experiences a recordable musculoskeletal disorder. A second provision states that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are not considered “privacy concern cases.”
Citing as its reasons for delay, OSHA must now determine whether a single definition of MSD is appropriate and useful for recordkeeping purposes, and if so, whether a new definition is appropriate.
According to the Federal Register, the proposal to delay the effective date does not affect the employer’s obligation to record all injuries and illnesses that meet the criteria set out in Secs. 1904.4-1904.7.
Employers must continue to record soft-tissue disorders, including those involving subjective symptoms such as pain, injuries, or illnesses if they meet the general recording criteria that apply to all injuries and illnesses. The proposed delay simply means that employers will not have to determine which injuries and illnesses should be classified under the category of “MSDs” or “ergonomic injuries” during the calendar year 2003.
Written comments on the agency’s proposal to delay the recordkeeping rule’s definition of “musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and whether to include MSDs and hearing loss columns on recordkeeping forms, must be submitted by August 30, 2002, in triplicate to the Docket Office, Docket R-02B, Room N2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20210, (202) 693-2350.
Because of security-related problems in receiving regular mail service in a timely manner, OSHA is requesting that comments be hand-delivered to the Docket Office, or sent by Express Mail or other overnight delivery service, electronic mail, or facsimile at (202) 693-1648.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2002-07-01.