"This document was published prior to the publication of OSHA's final rule
on Ergonomics Program (29 CFR 1910.900, November 14, 2000), and therefore
does not necessarily address or reflect the provisions set forth in the
National News Release: DOL 99-43
Friday, February 19, 1999
Contact: Michael Fluharty or Bill Wright, (202) 693-1999
OSHA BEGINS SMALL BUSINESS REVIEW OF ERGONOMICS PROPOSAL;
RELEASES DRAFT REGULATORY TEXT
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
today is taking the first step in a regulatory process that is expected to result in an ergonomics
standard in the year 2000. The draft standard released today will be reviewed for its impact on
small business before the agency publishes a formal proposal in September. The draft
ergonomics text is also being made available immediately on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov.
Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker. It is the solution to a host of
physical problems brought about by over-exertion or repetitive stress. More than 647,000
Americans suffer serious injuries and illnesses due to Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders
-- WMSDs, for short -- each year, accounting for more than 34 percent of all lost-workday
injuries and illnesses and costing employers $15-20 billion annually in direct workers'
"We must push forward with a sensible ergonomics program standard," said OSHA
Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "We have ample sound scientific evidence that too many
workers are suffering serious injuries and illnesses due to work-related musculoskeletal
According to Jeffress, many companies have already adopted ergonomics programs that
prevent employee injuries and save employers' money. The draft standard is based on
ergonomics programs that have already been proven successful in the workplace.
Under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act (SBREFA),
proposed regulations must first be reviewed for their economic impact on small businesses
before being published in the Federal Register for public review and comment. The SBREFA
panel, which will consist of officials from OSHA, the Small Business Administration, and the
Office of Management and Budget, has 60 days to complete its review once it begins work in
"Though the SBREFA review is required, the public release is not. We're making this
draft available beyond the SBREFA process because we think it's important that employers,
workers, and other interested parties be part of the process," Jeffress said. "This text is a
working draft that has undergone many revisions, and I fully expect it to undergo many more
before we publish an official proposal later this year."
Jeffress said that OSHA is focusing its initial efforts on general industry where
ergonomic problems can be severe and where solutions are known. The draft targets
manufacturing and manual handling operations where approximately 60 percent of all lost-workday WMSDs occur. Under the draft proposal general industry employers involved in such
operations will automatically be covered by an ergonomics rule.
In addition, only general industry employers whose workers experience a reportable
WMSD will need to develop an ergonomics program for problem jobs. The final ergonomic
program proposal will not cover maritime, construction or agricultural industries.
OSHA crafted the proposal -- written in plain language in a question and answer format --
around six basic elements: management leadership and employee participation; hazard
identification and information; job hazard analysis and control; training; medical management;
and program evaluation.
The draft specifies that employers in manufacturing and manual handling operations
must establish the first two elements -- management leadership and employee participation, and
hazard identification and information -- within a year after the final rule becomes effective. The
remaining four elements will be established after a WMSD is reported or if a known hazard
General industry employers not involved in manufacturing and manual handling will
establish an ergonomics program -- using all elements of the program -- only when a WMSD is
reported and only after the rule becomes effective.
OSHA has pursued the development of an ergonomics standard since 1990 when the
agency first developed guidelines for the meatpacking industry. The agency considered a risk-assessment approach in 1994-95, but is now pursuing a program-oriented standard that,
according to Jeffress, will allow employers the flexibility to adopt solutions that fit their
"If employees are developing these disorders because of work, then their employers need
to find out why," he explained. "We believe this draft rule gives employers the flexibility to
address WMSDs in a practical manner and then adopt solutions that fit their workplace."
OSHA plans to publish a final proposal in the Federal Register in September. Public
comment periods and public hearings will be announced after the proposal is published.
* * *
This news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov/ under media
Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon
request. Voice phone 202-693-1999.