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The Department's comprehensive plan to reduce ergonomic hazards calls for enforcement under the general duty clause where ergonomic hazards exist and employers are not making good-faith efforts to prevent injuries. The enforcement program builds on the two OSH Review Commission decisions (Pepperidge Farm and Beverly Enterprises) recognizing that the OSH Act general duty clause may be used to require employers to address ergonomic hazards. The decisions in these cases, coupled with the subsequent settlement on remand in Beverly Enterprises, provide a sound basis for enforcement.
OSHA's current ergonomics inspection plan combines a Nursing Home National Emphasis Program (NEP) and inspection of other high injury workplaces in industries which have been identified as having a significant number of injuries related to ergonomic hazards. In addition, the agency will continue to respond to employee complaints about serious ergonomic hazards.
The Nursing Home NEP began this summer with completion of specialized training of OSHA field personnel. The NEP includes a significant focus on ergonomic hazards related to resident handling. Other hazards covered in the NEP are exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials, exposure to tuberculosis, and hazards that can lead to slips, trips, and falls. Under the NEP approximately 1000 nursing homes will be inspected. These facilities will be selected from those with the highest injury rates in that industry.
OSHA's Data Initiative will be used to identify other workplaces in other industries with higher than average injury rates. OSHA will focus ergonomics inspection resources on industries with relatively high rates of injuries that appear to be related to ergonomic hazards and where there are feasible methods available to reduce those hazards.
OSHA safety and health professionals will apply a step-by-step approach to the evaluation of the extent of an ergonomic hazard in an establishment. As part of the initial phase of the step-by-step approach, OSHA will assess the lost work day injury and illness rate (LWDII) and the severity rates over a three year period, as well as the trends in those rates. Based on these rates, or on whether the employer has an effective process in place to address ergonomic hazards, OSHA will determine whether to conclude the ergonomics portion of the inspection. Otherwise, the compliance officer will move into a more detailed site evaluation, which could include job-specific documentation, further worker and management interviews, consultation with Office of the Solicitor, and, in appropriate cases, use of outside experts.
Before issuing any citation alleging ergonomic hazards, OSHA will consider the evidence in the particular case, as well as other relevant factors. The basic criteria OSHA will use in deciding whether to cite are those imposed by the General Duty Clause itself:
OSHA will use qualified safety and health personnel who have been trained in the identification and abatement of ergonomic hazards to conduct ergonomic-related inspections. To that end, the Agency will:
Employers who participate in an OSHA Strategic Partnership will be subject to inspection in accord with the provisions of OSHA Directive TED 8-0.2 and OSHA Instruction CPL 2-02-02. Under these instructions, where there is a signed partnership agreement, the establishment may be carried over to a future inspection cycle to allow the establishment to be deferred up to six months from the signing of the partnership agreement.