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In April 2002, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao unveiled a comprehensive
approach to ergonomics designed to quickly and effectively address
musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. OSHA developed a four-pronged
ergonomics strategy to meet this goal through a combination of industry-specific
and task-specific guidelines, outreach, enforcement, and research.
Since the ergonomics strategy was announced, OSHA has made significant progress
in each of the four areas of emphasis to reduce ergonomic injuries. Some
highlights of OSHA's accomplishments are summarized below.
- OSHA's first ergonomic guidelines were released on March 13, 2003, and
covered the nursing home industry; the guidelines followed public comment and
a stakeholder meeting.
- OSHA published final Ergonomic Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores on May
28, 2004 following public comment and a stakeholder meeting.
- OSHA published final Ergonomic Guidelines for the Poultry Processing
Industry on September 2, 2004 following public comment. No Stakeholder meeting
was held for this guideline because stakeholders felt that their written
comments were sufficient to communicate their concerns.
- OSHA published final Ergonomic Guidelines for Shipyards on March 7, 2008
following public comment. No Stakeholder meeting was held for this guideline
because stakeholders felt that their written comments were sufficient to
communicate their concerns.
- Through OSHA's Alliance Program, other industries have developed their own ergonomic guidance to meet their specific needs. For example, through the OSHA and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Alliance, AAFA developed voluntary ergonomics guidelines for the apparel and footwear industry. Through the OSHA and National Telecommunications Safety Panel (NTSP) Alliance, NTSP develop ergonomic guidance for common job functions in the telecommunications
Outreach and Assistance
- OSHA has issued 19 General Duty Clause violations for ergonomic hazards,
18 of which have been settled and one remains open. OSHA continues to evaluate
- From January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2007 OSHA conducted 4,138
ergonomics inspections encompassing a variety of industries. Of these, 1,225
inspections were conducted in nursing and personal care facilities under a
National Emphasis Program from July 2002 through the end of September 2003.
- A cross-cutting OSHA ergonomics response team evaluates and screens all
inspection cases prior to issuing a citation.
- OSHA sent 593 hazard alert letters to notify employers of ergonomic
problems in their facilities. Follow-up inspections at a sample of these
facilities are being conducted to evaluate the progress of response to the
hazard alert letters.
- Four Regional Emphasis Programs and four Local Emphasis Programs are
underway across the country, focusing on ergonomic hazards in meat processing,
health care, garment factories, and warehousing industries.
- OSHA named ergonomic coordinators for each of its 10 regional offices to
assist staff, employers, employees, and other stakeholders with ergonomic
- OSHA currently has five ergonomists throughout the country—in regional
offices, the national office, the OSHA Training Institute and the Salt Lake
- The OSHA Training Institute has added a class to teach field personnel
policies and procedures for ergonomics enforcement under the OSHA's
National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics
- As of September 2008, OSHA has 71 active Strategic Partnerships with an emphasis on ergonomics.
- As of September 2008, OSHA has 19 national Alliances and 40 Regional/Area Office Alliances with a focus on ergonomics. Several Alliance Program participants, including the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the National Telecommunications Safety Panel have developed industry-specific ergonomic guidance documents.
- A number of other Alliance Program participants have developed publications on ergonomic topics. For example, the Crane, Hoist and Monorail Alliance participants developed a tips sheet on safe lifting practices, the Professional Landcare Network developed a tips sheet on reducing the risk of lifting injuries in the landscape and horticultural industries, and the American Dental Association developed a tips sheet to help dentists and dental hygienists prevent hand pain.
- In addition, OSHA works with its Alliance Program participants to provide ergonomic training to employees. For example, the American Apparel and Footwear Association developed an ergonomics training class for its members and others in the apparel and footwear industry. As part of an Alliance between OSHA's Region V Area Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the university developed and sponsored conferences on safe patient handling.
- OSHA's Website features nine eTools that address ergonomics for a number of industries and occupations, including baggage handling, beverage delivery, computer workstations, electrical contractors, grocery warehousing, health care, printing, poultry processing and sewing. OSHA has worked with its Alliance Program participants to develop and enhance several of these eTools. For example, OSHA worked with the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography to develop a new module for the Hospital eTool that focuses on preventing ergonomic injuries for sonographers. OSHA worked with the Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc. to develop the ergonomic eTool for electrical contractors.
- OSHA's Ergonomics Safety and Health Topics web page reflects the Agency's four-pronged strategy to reduce ergonomic injuries. The web page provides information on ergonomics guidelines, enforcement actions, the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics, eTools, cooperative programs, a library of more than 50 success stories from a variety of industries, and case studies. OSHA has worked with its Alliance Program participants, including Abbott, The Dow Chemical Company, and the American Forest and Paper Association and Pulp and Paper Safety Association to develop several of these success stories and case studies.
- OSHA staff serves as adjunct members on the American Industrial Hygiene Association's Ergonomics Committee.
- Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) sites are required to identify and control hazards, including ergonomic hazards, as part of their overall safety and health management system.
- The OSHA Training Institute Education Centers conducted 33 ergonomic classes for 513 students in FY 2008 and have scheduled several ergonomics classes in FY 2009.
- OSHA provided ergonomic workstation training and evaluation assistance to several government agencies, including the IRS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
- OSHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of the Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman, to distribute ergonomics information to small businesses.
- OSHA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce jointly developed a webcast on the ability of businesses to adopt and implement ergonomics policies.
- OSHA has awarded grants under the Susan Harwood Training Program to organizations to develop and conduct training on ergonomics. For example, in FY 2008, OSHA awarded grants to two organizations to develop and conduct training for managers and employees in small business foundries.
- OSHA established a 15-member National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE),
with representatives from industry, academia, labor, and the legal and medical
professions. More than 250 people were nominated in response to a Federal
Register announcement seeking nominations to NACE.
- The first NACE meeting took place in January 2003. Subsequent meetings
were held in May 2003, September 2003, January 2004 and May 2004, and November
- Discussion at the meetings has centered on task-specific guidelines,
research needs and efforts, and outreach and assistance methods to communicate
the value of ergonomics.
- Based upon a recommendation of the NACE research discussion group, OSHA
sponsored a symposium entitled Musculoskeletal and Neurovascular Disorders -
The State of Research Regarding Workplace Etiology and Prevention for
published researchers on work-related musculoskeletal disorders to examine
their studies and the methodologies used. This symposium was held in
conjunction with the January 2004 NACE meeting.
- The NACE Charter ended in November 2004. A complete list of NACE'S recommendations are available.