The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will soon publish a proposal for an ergonomics program rule in the Federal Register. The rule will apply to those areas in general industry (i.e., manufacturing operations, manual handling operations, etc.) where the incidence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) is most severe. Facilities will be required to develop an ergonomics program composed of the following elements: management leadership and employee participation, hazard identification and information, job hazard analysis and control, employee training, medical management, and program evaluation.
As a product of the Plain Language Initiative, this “user friendly” rule should provide the flexibility that employers need to fit solutions to specific problems in their workplaces. OSHA encourages interested parties to submit concerns about the proposed ergonomics program rule during upcoming public comment period.
In April of 2002, OSHA began a new four-pronged comprehensive approach to enforcing the ergonomics program. The four prongs include: guidelines; enforcement; outreach and assistance; and the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE). NACE met three times a year in 2003 and 2004 to make recommendations for the Ergonomics Program. In their next meeting in 2003, NACE focused on outreach and assistance and organized a symposium entitled Musculoskeletal and Neurovascular Disorders — The State of Research Regarding Workplace Etiology and Prevention, which took place in January of 2004. The last NACE meeting will take place in November of 2004. To read more about OSHA’s four-pronged approach, please click on the link found below.
Currently, OSHA is working to develop industry-specific ergonomics guidelines. Guidelines for retail grocery stores, nursing homes, and the printing industry have been developed. OSHA is asking for help from each industry to take the initiative to write their own guidelines. This encouragement led the Society of the Plastics Industry to develop ergonomics guidelines for thier industry. For more information and details of the standards for each industry or to find out if your industry has begun to develop an industry-wide ergonomics standard, please click on the link found below.
In some cases, ergonomics has become a state issue with two states, California and Washington, enforcing state-wide ergonomic standards. Minnesota and Oregon are in the process of developing state-wide ergonomics standards. Each state has used varying approaches to reduce the occurrences of WMSD’s. See if your state has begun a state-wide ergonomics program or to read the details of the standards for each state.