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OSHA focusing on ergonomic injuries; will require reporting

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The on/off battle over ergonomic injuries is on again.

A decade ago, the Clinton administration wrote regulations that would have required employers to redesign work spaces to protect employees from repetitive-stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Congress rescinded those rules in 2001.

Now OSHA says 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.

Could this be a first step toward a broader ergonomics standard? OSHA calls ergonomics one of its “highest priorities,” but says it has no immediate plans to issue ergonomic regulations. Still, employers are wary.

“(Injury reporting) will serve the purpose of allowing OSHA to generate data they will need to support doing something on ergonomics,” said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We consider this the first shot in the coming ergo conflict.”

OSHA hadn’t yet tipped its hand on how far it plans to go on regulating ergonomics. At a minimum, it’s likely to encourage training in ergonomic injuries. And it can still use the “general duty clause” to cite employers that knew of ergonomic hazards yet didn’t take steps to fix them.

One option: OSHA may publish more industry-specific standards—such as safe patient handling for health care workers—rather than a general blanket ergonomics rule. Read more about OSHA’s plans and ergonomic workstation tips at www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics.

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