In 2001, OSHA issued sweeping ergonomics regulations designed to reduce repetitive-stress injuries (RSIs) in the workplace. But the regulations were the costliest ever to come out of OSHA, and Congress, in response to business outcry, scrapped the regulations a few months later.
In 2009, OSHA said it plans to propose a rule requiring employers to report work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in a new column on their Form 300 workplace injury logs. Some believe the move is a precursor to reintroducing ergonomic standards.
For many reasons, employers should monitor and address ergonomic issues. Ergonomic injuries severe enough to cause a worker to miss a day of work occurred at a rate of 39 per 10,000 full-time, private-industry workers in 2011. Many ergonomic injuries can be prevented through low-cost adjustments to the workplace.
Employers that proactively address ergonomic issues will fare better under OSHA scrutiny. Keep in mind that OSHA can still perform workplace inspections and issue citations under the “general duty” clause. Employers that have implemented ergonomic safety measures in good faith would only receive ergonomic hazard letters and would have 12 months to correct the problem before OSHA would perform a follow-up inspection to ensure compliance.
Note: OSHA may develop industry-specific ergonomic standards targeting those with high rates of ergonomic injuries such as health care and transportation. Read more about OSHA’s plans and ergonomic workstation tips at www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics.