Although Tuesday’s United States’ presidential election has the potential to alter the way that OSHA addresses workplace ergonomics, the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE) plans to continue with its goal of developing recommendations for OSHA regarding workplace ergonomics through its sixth meeting on November 16 and 17, 2004 in Washington, D.C.
The meeting, the last in the group’s two-year charter, will offer the 15 members of NACE the chance to finalize their ergonomics recommendations to OSHA. Previous meetings resulted in the development of subgroups among the committee to provide greater focus on the subjects of research, development of guidelines, and implementing outreach and education.
“[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,” committee chair Carter L. Kerk, Ph.D., CPE told Ergonomics TodayTM before NACE’s January meeting and symposium.
However, even during its short two-year charter, NACE has not been without controversy. Prior to the January 2004 symposium, a group of 11 ergonomists, most of whom worked on at least one comprehensive ergonomics report for the federal government since 1997, sent a written statement to the committee regarding their plan to boycott the symposium on the grounds that the current presidential administration was distorting science for its own political benefit. Particularly noted was OSHA’s rehashing of already well-accepted research, which boycotters believed was intentionally delaying changes in federally-mandated ergonomics, something Don Chaffin, Ph.D., CPE, a University of Michigan researcher who boycotted the symposium, referred to as “paralysis by analysis.”
Regardless of the group’s recommendations, Tuesday’s election is expected to impact the way the federal government handles workplace ergonomics. While incumbent president George W. Bush helped overturn the previous federal ergonomics standard, Democratic candidate John Kerry has stated that he “supports implementation of a mandatory ergonomics safeguards to improve workplace safety.”
Sources: OSHA.gov; JohnKerry.com; Ergonomics TodayTM