Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

8. New Approaches to New Hazards

Action: Address public concerns about ergonomically-related hazards in the workplace through a common sense strategy of consultation, training and education, labor and industry partnerships, and sensible enforcement/litigation strategy.

Background: The number of musculoskeletal disorders is increasing dramatically as evidenced by 63% of new occupational illnesses reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1993 were disorders associated with repeated trauma. The estimated average cost to business is $29,000 per musculoskeletal disorder. The estimated direct workers' compensation cost for such disorders is $20 billion annually. Very simply, ergonomics is job design with the worker in mind. Ergonomics identifies and controls risk factors that cause musculoskeletal disorders such as low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis. Some employers have voluntarily implemented successful programs to control problems. Their experience demonstrates that reducing exposure to risk factors decreases the chances of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Early identification and treatment of disorders can reduce the severity and decrease disability.

Description: Once OSHA might have promulgated a detailed, lengthy specification standard to address ergonomics resulting in rigid and inflexible requirements. Today, in cooperation with business and labor, OSHA will build and implement a sensible and versatile strategy for the control of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. This effort will reward exemplary employers, recognize employers requesting assistance and fairly address employers who fail to keep workplaces free of recognized and serious ergonomically-related hazards. Among other methods, this effort will spotlight those participants in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program with exemplary ergonomic programs and emphasize their successful approaches. OSHA consultation programs in every State will promote a special program for ergonomic cooperative programs that includes outreach and program development assistance. A training and education effort including grants, seminars, and materials will be coordinated with labor and industry groups. An enforcement and litigation strategy that uses the range of enforcement interventions from nonformal resolution to flexible settlement, to strong enforcement will be designed to leverage OSHA's limited resources to focus on the most hazardous workplaces.

Implementation: Schedule and conduct meetings with OSHA stakeholders by September 30, 1995. Develop and design a comprehensive program by December 31, 1995.

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