|OSHSPA Reports on State Plan Activities > 2002 OSHSPA Report > State Initiatives: Reducing Workplace Risks|
|State Initiatives: Reducing Workplace Risks|
State plan states have been a strong national force in recognizing emerging workplace hazards and originating new methods for addressing those hazards, including the adoption of new standards. State plans emphasize that whatever the emerging issue, employers are still required to provide a safe and healthful place of employment
In particular, California was the first state in the nation to adopt an ergonomic standard in 1997. State plans are continuing efforts to reduce the number and severity of musculoskeletal disorders caused by risk factors in the workplace. Several state programs are developing formal rules as well as voluntary guidelines to help prevent workplace violence. In 1997, Michigan developed an experimental variance to protect tower construction workers.
California’s Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI) standard, which became effective July 3, 1997, was the first ergonomic standard adopted in the nation. The application of the standard is triggered when at least two employees at the employer’s worksite report RMIs that were: (1) diagnosed by a licensed physician and (2) predominantly caused by identical work activity, and (3) occurred within 12 months of each other. However, ergonomics continues to be a difficult issue to regulate.
Last year, the California Labor Federation submitted a petition requesting that the standard be amended to delete the two-injury trigger and paragraph (c) of the standard. Paragraph (c) puts the burden on Cal/OSHA, when alleging a violation of the standard, to prove that the employer knew of the proper compliance measures, and that those measures are not unreasonably costly and "substantially certain" to cause a greater reduction in injuries than the measures taken by the employer.
In the five years since Cal/OSHA has been enforcing the standard, a number of problems with the two-injury trigger have become apparent. Some injured employees do not report their injuries, and others do not go to a licensed physician for treatment. Physicians sometimes do not describe the injury as "repetitive motion injury" and the issues of whether injuries were "predominantly caused" by work or were caused by "identical work activity" are always difficult to address. These problems require Cal/OSHA staff to spend considerable time on RMI inspections, often to come up with equivocal results.
Cal/OSHA submitted its own suggestions for revising the standard to the Standards Board as an alternative to those made by the California Labor Federation. Since California law requires all employers to set up effective written injury and illness prevention programs (IIIP), Cal/OSHA believes that an effective IIIP will capture ergonomic hazards as well as it captures other hazards. Cal/OSHA’s proposal would make the IIIP the backbone of a revised ergonomics standard.
However, none of the proposals before the Standards Board have been capable of generating consensus for change. Meanwhile, an advisory committee will continue to meet to search for possible consensus on whether change is needed, and if so, how to change the standard. Cal/OSHA is committed to finding a solution that works for all interests and will continue to attempt to use the consensus approach. There is a strong commitment to the belief that control of ergonomics hazards needs to be based on cooperation among industry, labor and Cal/OSHA to be effective.
Cal/OSHA Consultation Service has worked with industry, labor, the medical community and others to develop best practices and programs for preventing repetitive motion injuries in specific industries. The Consultation Service has issued a number of publications based on best practices and programs actually adopted by employers in a particular industry for reducing musculoskeletal disorders.
Publications are developed with input from industry associations, employers, labor organizations, and others. A recent publication, Ergonomics in Action, describes best ergonomics practices for the food processing industry. The Back Injury Prevention Guide gives examples for lifting patients and other tasks in nursing homes. The Consultation Service has also recently issued "Ergonomic Survival Guides" for workers on construction sites.
Washington adopted a new ergonomics rule on May 26, 2000, which differs from California’s workplace repetitive motion injury standard–its requirements are triggered by specific hazards in the workplace rather than occurrence of musculoskeletal disorder symptoms or injuries. Intended to reduce work-related musculoskeletal hazards (WMSDs) that cripple or injure more than 50,000 Washington workers each year, the Washington rule was adopted after a 20-month rulemaking process that included conferences across the state, extensive work with two large advisory committees, publishing a proposed rule with supporting documents, and 14 public hearings in seven cities statewide.
Requirements of Washington’s ergonomics rule are phased in over a two- through six-year period, depending on the size of the business and its industry sector. First to comply in the state will be larger businesses in the 12 industries showing the highest risk of WMSDs. These employers have two years to come into compliance with several of the requirements and three years for total compliance. Smaller businesses not in the 12 highest-risk industries are given up to five years to come into compliance with those requirements and six years for total compliance.
Some employers and labor organizations are eligible for direct financial incentives–safety and health grants or workers’ compensation premium discounts–to help them implement the ergonomics rule. The state has convened a panel of experts to help determine whether employer and employee technical assistance activities are successful and sufficient before compliance with the new rule begins.
Washington has created an Ergonomics Ideas Bank, a searchable collection of ideas for preventing workplace injuries and improving job safety and health. Many ideas were collected from companies with existing ergonomics programs and employers who participated in Washington sponsored demonstration projects. The bank is located at: www.lni.wa.gov/wisha/forms/ergoideassubmitform.htm.
Connecticut is developing training programs to complement its ergonomics enforcement, and plans to make such training available on CDs.
During FY 2002, Maryland created a roundtable discussion group to address the increasing occupational safety and health issues in the non-acute healthcare industry. The roundtable group included MOSH and OSHA staff and representatives of the non-acute healthcare industry. The group identified three areas of occupational safety and health concerns: ergonomically induced musculoskeletal disorders, control of occupationally acquired infections, and workplace violence. MOSH scheduled two pilot outreach programs to address these three areas of concern; one was held in October 2002, and the other in December 2002. These programs reached 91 participants from the non-acute healthcare industry for a total of 637 training hours.
Michigan’s Strategic Plan includes musculoskeletal disorders as a focus for reducing injuries and illnesses by 15 percent. Without a standard, MIOSHA can rely on the General Duty requirement to issue citations and penalties in the most extreme cases. Citations are issued where the state finds repetitive motion injuries of which the employer was aware and knew how to prevent, but did not make adequate reasonable effort to prevent them.
MIOSHA conducts extensive outreach and education focused at improving ergonomic conditions. Since 1991, the Ergonomics Committee has encouraged proactive voluntary compliance through training, consultation and recognition of positive efforts. The committee oversees an ergonomics awards program that recognizes voluntary ergonomic innovations and activities. Since the program began, more than 79 Michigan companies have been recognized through this program for their proactive efforts to improve the "job fit" for their workers.
In 2002, two MIOSHA standards commissions responsible for developing and adopting workplace safety and health standards approved establishing an advisory committee to begin the process of exploring a Michigan ergonomic standard. This advisory committee has responsibility for researching, drafting, obtaining public input, and making recommendations to the commissions.
Although it does not have a state ergonomic standard, Minnesota was one of the first states to examine and cite ergonomic problems in the workplace. The ergonomics team, which produced Guidelines for Resident Handling in Long-term Care Facilities, conducts comprehensive inspections of selected facilities that include a thorough review of injury and illness records, a complete walkaround inspection, and abatement recommendations.
Minnesota OSHA had an ergonomics task force meet during the summer of 2002. The purpose of the task force was to determine how best to reduce ergonomic-related injuries in the state. As a result of this task force they are hiring two ergonomic positions in the consultation area to help employers resolve ergonomic-related hazards.
Nevada’s Safety Consultation and Training Section continued their ergonomic emphasis by providing training that concentrated on ergonomic concerns connected with video display terminals. These efforts are scheduled to be expanded to more targeted areas in the future.
North Carolina provides consultation on ergonomics, and the North Carolina Ergonomics Resource Center (NCERC) is a partnership between the state’s Department of Labor and North Carolina State University. Funds were appropriated to the Department of Labor for establishment of the center, which is housed at the university. NCERC opened in November 1994. Its services cover ergonomics consulting and training workshops, on-site ergonomic training individually tailored to a company’s needs, a variety of publications, a series of ergonomics tips dealing with specific industries and environments, and two employee video training packages.
Emphasizing applied research and timely delivery of programs, NCERC identifies, analyzes and corrects ergonomic deficiencies in the workplace. Its primary goal is to act as a bridge for technology transfer and information exchange between the university, state agencies and industry.
North Carolina established an alliance with the American Furniture Manufacturers Association to produce voluntary ergonomics guidelines that will help the furniture industry reduce ergonomic hazards and potential injuries.
Oregon OSHA established an Ergonomics Advisory Committee to provide assistance in determining a direction for ergonomics in Oregon as well as to provide guidance in the area of ergonomic outreach. The committee includes representatives from management, labor and government. As a result of the efforts of this committee, Oregon OSHA has published a web page that provides industry specific ergonomic information and resources.
Utah has not adopted an ergonomics regulation, yet has worked with nursing homes and similar types of businesses since 1993, on the benefits of applying ergonomic principles and practices to help reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. In March of 2003, Utah OSHA participated with federal OSHA and the airline industry in developing web-based ergonomic practices for the airline industry.
Virgin Islands has not adopted state-specific ergonomics regulations, and its General Duty Clause is used when an employer should have known existing abatement methods for an injury that occurred.
Workplace violence is an occupational safety and health hazard that demands action. Whether the risk of violence comes from a coworker, client, patient or the public, employers must be provided with tools to develop comprehensive plans that reduce levels of risk. State programs are developing formal rules as well as voluntary guidelines to help prevent this type of workplace hazard.
Alaska has issued two general duty clause citations for workplace violence and has had both violations affirmed. One of the citations was issued to the Alaska Psychiatric Institute because staff had been exposed to violent acts from their patients.
California’s 1994 conference on workplace security, the first of its kind, was part of a drive to promote additional research and develop guidelines for preventing workplace violence. California issued Guidelines for Security and Safety of Health Care and Community Service Workers, Cal/OSHA Guidelines for Workplace Security and a Model Injury and Illness Prevention Program for Workplace Security.
Cal/OSHA has been investigating violent worksite events since 1993. Although workplace violence is part of a larger societal problem, the employer in California is still required to provide a safe and healthful place of employment. Employers at risk of robbery or other violent assaults must include workplace security in their injury and illness prevention program. And in response to the growing recognition of violence in the workplace, government agencies that oversee workplace safety are incorporating security issues into safetyplans. Fatalities from assaults and violent acts accounted for 18.8 percent of the 1999 California workplace fatality total, down from 23.4 percent in 1998 and decreasing steadily: from 194 in 1995 to 111 in 1999.
Michigan has recently completed work on a "Violence in the Workplace" program. The heightened awareness of the population to workplace exposures due to terrorism, domestic violence and potentially out-of- control workers, along with many requests from employers for assistance, has led to the development of outreach materials by the Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division. Seminars, workshops and training materials are available to assist employers in developing their own workplace violence prevention protocols. The CET Division has developed a program that can be adapted to any workplace, however special segments are being developed that will focus on high-risk areas such as nursing facilities, late-night establishments and occupations where employees work alone.
Minnesota’s Workplace Violence Prevention Program helps employers and their employees reduce the incidence of violence in their workplaces by providing on-site consultation, telephone assistance, education and training seminars and a resource center. This program targets workplaces at high risk of violence: convenience stores, service stations, taxi and transit operations, restaurants and bars, motels, guard services, patient care facilities, schools, social services, residential care facilities and correctional institutions. The program is administered by the Workplace Safety Consultation (WSC) Division.
Outreach tools include a brochure, Workplace Violence: Are You at Risk? to increase awareness of workplace violence and outline steps to minimize its threat, and a guide, Minnesota Workplace Violence Prevention–A Comprehensive Guide for Employers and Employees, providing sample policies, checklists and tools to help assess and prevent violent incidents.
Minnesota OSHA has conducted training for all internal staff in regard to this issue. The training was to help their staff to deal with potential threatening situations. The purpose was to train the staff to de-escalate the situation as quickly as possible.
Oregon takes a strong information and training approach to raise awareness and encourage action. By creating several publications and working directly with the Associated Oregon Industries and other groups, statewide education network training forums address this emerging area. Oregon offers on-line training for employers: Developing Your Violence Prevention Program.
Utah believes that substance abuse and workplace violence need to be addressed together because of their relationship to each other. Utah OSHA has provided seminars for employers and their employees on workplace violence prevention.
Virgin Islands’ Workplace Violence Prevention Program helps employers and their employees reduce the incidence of violence in their workplaces by providing on-site consultation, telephone assistance, education and training seminars and a resource center. In 1999, there were three workplace violence employee-to-employee incidents that required workers’ compensation claims filing. VIDOSH recognizes the need to address workplaces at high risk of violence: convenience stores, service stations, taxi and transit operations, restaurants and bars, motels, guard services, patient care facilities, schools, social services, residential care facilities and correctional institutions. Staff is being trained to provide workplace violence prevention assistance.
During the 2000 session of the General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry was requested to study workplace violence in the commonwealth and submit its written findings and recommendations to the governor and 2001 session of the General Assembly.
Washington developed safety and health standards for the late-night retail industry in 1990, and uses enforcement and consultation for hazard abatement and prevention. The Workplace Violence Awareness and Prevention workshop helps participants assess risk factors and develop preventive measures. A written guide covering these topics and a sample prevention program were developed by WISHA with over 30 representatives of labor, business and the academic community. WISHA’s video Is It Worth Your Life? with real-life scenarios demonstrates what workers and employers can do to prevent injuries. The video is distributed to employer networks and associations.
In 1997, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries’ Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention program completed a comprehensive study of workplace violence based on federal and state data for 1992-95. Homicide was the fourth leading cause of workplace deaths in Washington, and most incidents were consistent with well-known risk factors. Most were committed by persons unknown to the victims, and most of the victims worked in retail trade, security services or transit. The majority of non-fatal injuries also occurred in predictable settings, but in contrast to the fatal assaults, most of these injuries occurred in a setting where the victim and attacker were in a custodial or client-caregiver relationship such as healthcare or social services. While the trend for assaults against private-sector workers in the state was downward, that for state government workers was rising. This study counters the notion that violence on the job is a random event and impervious to remedy. Prevention strategies such as hazard assessment and de-escalation training address risk factors in the work setting.
Telecommunications tower construction is a booming industry, however it presents significant fall hazards to construction workers. In 1993, a Grant Tower Inc. employee was fatally injured during the erection of a telecommunications tower in Michigan. As the Construction Safety Division investigated the fatality, accessing towers and heights became a key issue. After the issues of the fatality were settled, Grant Tower continued to work with MIOSHA to develop a safe method for accessing communications towers.
The discussions between Grant Tower and MIOSHA Construction Safety officials resulted in the development of the first-ever "Experimental Variance" for the MIOSHA program. An experimental variance was issued in July 1997, which allowed Grant Tower to hoist employees on the gin pole load line, in accordance with mandated stipulations. The variance was effective for three years, during which time MIOSHA monitored the safety benefits and Grant Tower’s compliance with the variance.
An experimental variance is authorized by MIOSHA to demonstrate or validate new or improved techniques to safeguard the health or safety of workers. When current standards do not recognize changes in technologies or processes, the experiment may allow the collection of data to support the promulgation of new or amended standards.
The variance spawned discussions between the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) and federal OSHA, along with MIOSHA officials, to develop a compliance directive to address telecommunications tower safety. In August 1997, OSHA established a Tower Task Force of tower industry employers and employees, OSHA and NIOSH staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, the FAA, the U.S. Navy, and other interested groups involved in tower construction. The MIOSHA program was invited to join the task force because of their proactive work with the industry.
This task force met over the next year and a half, and developed a federal compliance directive, CPL 2-1.29, Interim Inspection Procedures During Communication Tower Construction Activities, which covers access and other lift conditions. The MIOSHA experimental variance was the model for the compliance directive, which became effective Jan. 15, 1999. The directive provides for uniform enforcement of regulations and policies in the tower industry.
OSHA’s Region V formed a partnership with the National Association of Tower Erectors in July 2002, to provide a safe and healthful work environment for employees involved in the tower erection industry. The partnership between the tower industry, MIOSHA and OSHA has improved safety and health conditions for employees and has fostered an environment of cooperation that will continue to protect workers in the future.
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