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|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.
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.
The Education Unit is working on two publications that are both being developed cooperatively on a national level. The first is Easy Ergonomics: A Guide to Selecting Non-Powered Handtools. The second publication is titled Best Practice Guidelines for Manual Materials Handling. Both projects are also a cooperative venture between Cal/OSHA, NIOSH, and industry, labor organizations and the University of California.
After a 20-month process that included conferences, extensive work with two large advisory committees, and statewide public hearings, Washington adopted an ergonomics rule in May, 2000. The requirements of the prevention-based rule were designed to be triggered by specific hazards in the workplace rather than occurrence of musculoskeletal disorder symptoms or injuries. Requirements were set to be phased in over a two through six-year period, depending on the size of the business and hazardousness of the industry.
An Ergonomics Blue Ribbon Panel convened in 2001 at the request of the Governor determined that the following criteria were met: Demonstration projects were successful; Effective educational materials were widely available; Requirements were understandable; and, WISHA’s enforcement policies were fair and consistent. In 2002, a business coalition mounted a legal challenge contending that the Department of Labor and Industries exceeded its authority in adopting the rule, acted arbitrarily, and did not properly follow rulemaking requirements. The case went to trial, and Washington’s actions were affirmed by a Superior Court ruling. The case was appealed to and heard by the Washington State Supreme Court, but before the Justices could issue a ruling, industry groups launched another challenge through the state’s voter initiative process. The ergonomics rule was repealed by voters in Washington’s November 2003 general election.
In the absence of a rule, WISHA still faces the challenge of addressing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. These types of injuries (50,000 annually) account for one-third of injury claims and 40 percent of claims costs. Washington is continuing to work with businesses and employee groups to conduct comprehensive education and outreach efforts. Efforts are now focused on workshops, helpful materials and tools for employers, demonstration projects that can be adapted and used by other employers, and onsite consultation visits.
One of the tools available is an Ergonomics Ideas Bank, a searchable collection of ideas for preventing workplace injuries. Many ideas were collected from companies with existing ergonomics programs and employers who participated in demonstration projects. The bank can be searched by risk factor or industry.
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 20 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 have hired two ergonomics specialists in the consultation area to help employers resolve ergonomics-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’s activities in the areas of ergonomics are focused on outreach and education. A stakeholder advisory committee assists the division in selecting and prioritizing efforts in the area of ergonomics. During FY 2003, healthcare employers formed their own committee to advance the issue of ergonomics within their industry. The Oregon Coalition for Healthcare Ergonomics began planning for a 2004 ergonomic conference for healthcare employers. The conference is going to be an international event, with presenters from Canada, the United Kingdom and other European countries.
Oregon OSHA offers four workshops on ergonomics, one of which is available on-line. During FY 2003, 325 people participated in workshops, 87 completed the on-line course, and 577 people attended ergonomic training sessions offered at one of the conferences co-sponsored by Oregon OSHA.
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.
In Alaska, both the enforcement section and the consultation and training section continue to be proactive in their efforts to protect employees against violence in the workplace.
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.
Although workplace violence is part of a larger societal problem, the employer is still required to provide a safe and healthful workplace. State regulations require employers to establish, implement and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). The IIPP must include procedures for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards, including scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices. Employers at risk for robbery or other types of violent assaults must include workplace security in their injury and illness prevention program.
Michigan has 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 training seminars by the Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division.
A CET Grant was awarded to the Center of Workplace Violence to develop a video entitled “How to Implement a Violence Prevention System for you Company,” which will provide practical information and guidelines for employers to structure and implement a violence prevention system in their company.
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.
The New Mexico OSHA staff has worked diligently to pass new regulations for convenience stores to reduce the high incidence of violence resulting in worker injuries and deaths in the industry. Outreach activities have been initiated to provide training and compliance assistance for convenience store employers.
Oregon addresses the issue of workplace violence primarily through outreach and training. The OR-OSHA publication, Violence in the Workplace, provides employers information about the causes of workplace violence, their responsibility to maintain a safe work environment, how to deal with potentially volatile situations, and how to develop a violence prevention program. The on-line training course, Developing Your Violence Prevention Program, is another resource available from Oregon OSHA. The course offers guidelines and suggestions for customizing a workplace violence prevention program. Twenty-two educational titles on video or CD-ROM are also available for loan to employers on the subject of workplace violence.
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.
Washington’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program at the Department of Labor and Industries has conducted several comprehensive studies of workplace violence. The most recent is based on federal and state data for 1995-2000. Homicide remained the fourth leading cause of workplace deaths in Washington, with eight percent of all fatal workplace injuries and an average of 11 cases per year. There was a decrease in the number of homicides reported in SHARP’s 1997 study.
Most incidents were consistent with 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. This is in striking contrast to the circumstances in which non-fatal workplace assaults occur, which were in a custodial or client-caregiver relationship such as healthcare or social services. While progress has been made in the healthcare and social services sectors, there is a troubling rising trend in police protection and some other public service sectors. In most cases, though, there are predictable and controllable risk factors which increase the likelihood of assault. Prevention strategies such as hazard assessment and de-escalation training can help address known risk factors.
Other State Plan Initiatives
State Plan States have been active in FY 2003 addressing emerging safety and health issues that address hazards specific to their particular states. Key issues include: Traffic Safety, Correctional Facilities, Tower Construction, Hispanic Workers, and Road Construction.
Traffic Safety - California legislation provides for a “targeted” inspection program and a “targeted” consultation program. These programs are supported fiscally by assessments on the subset of insured and self-insured California employers who have an EX-MOD of 1.25 or greater to a Targeted Inspection and Consultation Fund (TICF). Since employers with a high EX-MOD for worker’s compensation purposes are required to pay an assessment, they are given priority for consultations.
It has been found that a high EX-MOD rate does not distinguish between “claims” of injuries for workers compensation purposes and “occupational hazards” which represent violations of safety regulations. Therefore, the consultant reviews the record of on-the-job injuries and illnesses and worker’s compensation claims and makes recommendations in addition to conducting an on-site safety and health consultation. If traffic accidents are a predominant reason for the high EX-MOD rate, Consultation makes recommendations along the lines of providing driver training to workers.
Correctional Facilities - During FY 2003, Maryland created a roundtable discussion group to address the increasing occupational safety and health issues in correctional facilities. The roundtable group included MOSH staff and representatives from correctional facilities and fire departments. The group identified four areas of occupational safety and health concerns: compliance auditing, respiratory protection, right-to-know and personal protective equipment. MOSH has held six outreach sessions reaching 157 attendees. MOSH is in the preliminary stages of creating a roundtable discussion group with the State Highway Administration and the Maryland State Police to address traffic safety issues.
Tower Construction - After the issues of a fatality were settled, MIOSHA worked with Grant Tower to develop a safe method for accessing communications towers. The discussions resulted in the first-ever “Experimental Variance” for the MIOSHA program, issued in July 1997, which allowed Grant Tower to hoist employees on the gin pole load line, in accordance with mandated stipulations.
The variance spawned discussions between the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) federal OSHA, and MIOSHA, to develop a compliance directive to address tower safety. In August 1997, OSHA established a Tower Task Force of tower industry employers and employees, OSHA and NIOSH staff, MIOSHA staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, the FAA, and other interested groups. This task force developed 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.
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.
Hispanic Workers - The New Mexico Hispanic Worker Initiative has targeted workers in the construction and agriculture industries. State consultants provide training in Spanish for site trainers and supervisors as well as employees. In addition, joint outreach activities have been conducted with organizations including the Mexican Consulate of Albuquerque and the Agencia de Companias Latinas de Albuquerque (ACLA).
Tower Construction - A final draft of a Communication Tower Standard has been approved by the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry. The rule should become effective sometime during FY 2005. It would become the first of its kind in the country to address safety issues related to the construction operation, and maintenance of communication towers. Industry groups and other stakeholders helped in the development of the standard.
Road Construction - Washington just launched a new multi-year emphasis program for road construction with two significant goals: to prevent fatalities and injuries caused by moving vehicles at jobsites, and to protect workers from hearing loss caused by exposure to hazardous noise levels from heavy machinery. Seventeen workers have been killed since 1999 while doing construction or utility work on road projects. Six of those workers died when they were backed over by dump trucks, including two last year in King County. These deaths occurred despite the trucks being equipped with audible back-up alarms. Most of these deaths were preventable, and WISHA is taking further steps to protect workers in this industry. On May 5, 2004, Washington adopted an emergency rule requiring that in addition to a back-up alarm, dump-truck drivers must have either an observer signaling when it is safe to back up, or a mechanical device such as a video camera that provides a full view of the area behind the truck.
Noise was selected as a focus area out of the desire to expand Washington’s cross-agency safety initiatives to a health emphasis program. One-third of the costs of all permanent job-related impairments are due to hearing loss ($43 million in 2001). The incident rate for road construction is ten times higher than for all other risk classes, and three times higher compared to the rest of the construction industry. Washington is using contacts with partners in state, county and city offices; the Department of Labor & Industries’ prevailing wage program; and, referrals from other agency programs to locate worksites.
FY 2003 State Plan Positions By Title
FY 2003 On-Site Visits By Type
Text Version of Chart: FY 2003 On-Site Visits By Type
Type: Horizontal Bar Graph
Graph Elements: 2 - Segments by type of on-site visits based on the number of visits.
FY 2003 State Plan Employers & Employees Covered
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