National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics Meeting
January 22, 2003
- Good morning. On behalf of Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, I welcome you to the first meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics.
- I want to thank you all for agreeing to serve, and especially thank Carter Kerk for chairing the committee. I know he will be of great help to all of you and to OSHA.
- I also want to thank my friend and colleague, John Howard, head of NIOSH, for taking the time to join us today. John brings a wealth of experience and knowledge.... his insights and that of NIOSH will be most valuable. We expect NIOSH to continue working with this committee as we identify further needs and refinements that are necessary for use to be successful in reducing workplace MSDs.
- The work you are about to begin is of paramount importance to OSHA and to our nation's workers. The advice of this blue-ribbon committee of distinguished experts will directly contribute to the success of our comprehensive plan to drive down ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
- This committee is chartered for two years. We expect you will meet two to four times a year. Today marks the committee's inaugural meeting. Our agenda calls for updates and discussions on several topics such as guidelines, outreach and assistance, and continuing research.
- In this meeting and in meetings to come, we will focus on these and other issues in considerable depth. A regulatory approach to addressing ergonomics is not on OSHA's agenda, so that should not be part of the committee's discussions. In addition, while you will be given a briefing today on the enforcement activities underway, enforcement per se will not be a part of you deliberations. Enforcement is based upon developed law and case law and is beyond the scope of this committee.
- Having said all this let me say how excited we are to have you with us today. Each of you comes with expert credentials. The collective depth and breadth of this committee's experience and your commitment to improving worker safety and health will be invaluable to us as we continue to move ahead in implementing Secretary Chao's four-pronged approach to ergonomics. Our goal is to reduce work related MSDs as quickly as possible - and you can help us do that - you can help reduce the pain and suffering that occurs in American workplaces that are related to ergonomic hazards.
- Those around the table today come from industry, academia, labor, legal and the medical professions. NACE members include two professors of medicine, an attorney, consultants specializing in occupational health, management directors, a professor of industrial engineering, safety and health specialists, a construction firm CEO, an associate professor in public health, and a registered nurse with joint faculty appointments in colleges of nursing and public health.
- I challenge each of you on the committee ... and I ask for your personal commitment ...Help us achieve our bottom line ... reducing workplace musculoskeletal injuries.
- Your enthusiasm ... your willingness to work hard ... your expertise in many fields ... will help us.
- We all know we face a tremendous challenge. Musculoskeletal injuries represent one-third of the injuries American workers experience every year. Our goal ... with your help ... is to reduce those numbers as quickly as possible.
- With the talent, dedication, experience each of you brings to the table, I'm looking forward to seeing creative, sound, practical advice America's employers and workers can put to use ... right now.
- As you know, last year Secretary Chao announced a new four-pronged approach to address musculoskeletal disorders. It includes industry-specific guidelines, enforcement through the general duty clause, outreach and assistance and research.
- OSHA has four overall objectives here.
Decrease ergonomic hazards
Reduce ergo-related injuries and illnesses
Help employers prevent musculoskeletal disorders
Ensure flexibility and encourage innovation
- Innovation is key in our push to drive down musculosketal disorders. Practical applications are how we can make innovative approaches work for us.
- We are not expecting the advisory committee to conduct research. Our broad goal for the committee is that your work should help us identify how or what might it take to reduce the science to practice. Or identify areas where we need more research to bridge the gap between the theoretical to the practical. Help us identify strategies that a plant manager, a front-line supervisor, a small business can readily adopt and use right now to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Help us identify ways to sell value of these strategies so we can help workers immediately.
- You can and will be of great value to us. You can help translate the research results into a tangible, practical method or procedure that can be used on the shop floor. Take what the scientists know now and be sure people in the workplace understand how they can take advantage of that scientific knowledge.
- Specifically, as I alluded to before, this committee can help OSHA in three areas: guidelines, outreach and research.
- For guidelines ... we want you to help us wrestle with a variety of questions: What industries and organizations have created effective ergonomics guidelines? Are there success stories that prove these guidelines make a difference? When OSHA develops guidelines, whom should we try to reach? Safety and health professionals? Small business owners? Others? How can we more effectively encourage other industries or companies to develop their own guidelines.
- For outreach ... how can OSHA improve its efforts to disseminate information? Are we reaching the right audiences? How can we more effectively articulate and sell the business and social value of addressing ergonomic guidelines? Howe can we more effectively achieve implementation? We now have ergonomic information on our website, we've produced eTools on ergonomics, and we have a host of cooperative programs --- alliances, strategic partnerships, Voluntary Protection Programs, and consultation assistance.
- What do we need to do more of? What new outreach strategies can we craft? Who else should we seek out for cooperative programs?
- For research ... where are the gaps? What needs to be done to reduce the science to practice? How does this fit in with what NIOSH is doing and the NORA process for setting research priorities? What do employers need and what's missing? How can we establish the business case for addressing ergonomics?
- I want to thank each you in advance for your work, your advice and counsel. Together we can make a difference in finding effective ways to drive down ergonomic injuries and illnesses.
- I have been carrying the message for some time now that safety and health add value to your business, to your workplace, to your life.
- I believe that each of you has a tremendous opportunity serving on this committee to add value in the effort to prevent ergonomic injuries and disease and drive their numbers down.
- I'm confident you will. Thank you.