Ergonomics Plan Announced by Assistant Secretary Henshaw
OSHA Announces Regional Ergonomics Coordinators
Lost-Worktime Injuries and Illnesses Continue Steady Decline
Injury and Illness Rate at World Trade Center Site Well Below National Average
OSHA, Risk and Insurance Management Society, Establish Alliance
Alliance With Hispanic Contractors of America Moves Forward
OSHA Joins Bath Iron Works, Local Unions to Improve Workers' Safety and Health
Voluntary Protection Program Activity
OSHA Strategic Partnerships Activity
John Henshaw, OSHA Administrator, unveiled the agency's strategy to reduce ergonomic injuries during a press conference, April 5. The four-pronged comprehensive approach was designed to accelerate the already declining numbers of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said the plan "is a major improvement over the rejected old rule because it will prevent ergonomics injuries before they occur and reach a much larger number of at-risk workers." In addition to developing guidelines specific to various industries where MSDs are high, the plan includes a strong enforcement strategy, outreach and assistance, and further research needs. OSHA has already begun working on developing the guidelines and will begin releasing them in selected industries this year.
Marking the first of numerous initiatives on the ergonomics front, OSHA named 10 OSHA professionals throughout the country to assist local compliance officers and other OSHA staff on ergonomic issues. Each ergonomic coordinator is based in one of 10 regional offices and has considerable experience in identifying ergonomic hazards. The coordinators will assist OSHA compliance officers in enforcement, outreach and assistance.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported April 10 that the number of workers with injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work edged down in 2000, continuing a steady eight-year decline. Approximately 1.66 million injuries and illnesses in private industry in 2000 required more than a day of recuperation away from work, a drop of about 2.3 percent from 1999.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao expressed concern for the continued high injury and illness rates for truck drivers, laborers, and nursing aides, saying, "their safety is important to all of us, and we must continue to find ways to reduce hazards and improve their working conditions."
After six months and more than 3 million work hours, the unparalleled work ongoing at the World Trade Center recovery site has resulted in only 35 reported cases of injuries that resulted in lost workdays, OSHA announced April 12. That represents a lost-worktime injury and illness rate of 2.3, well below the national average of 4.3 for specialty construction that includes demolition.
"Given the extraordinary circumstances involved, this rate is a tremendous credit to the dedicated efforts of everyone involved in the effort," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's Regional Administrator in New York, "including the workers, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, the Building Trades Employer's Association, the City of New York and federal agencies."
For the second time in less than two months, OSHA has entered into an Alliance with an organization focusing on promoting safe and healthful workplaces. David Mair, president of the 7,500-member Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) signed the Alliance with Assistant Secretary Henshaw on April 14 that begins a cooperative association built on a foundation of outreach and communication, and training and education.
The Alliance will allow OSHA and RIMS the opportunity to combine their collective expertise in safety and health and risk management by sharing best practices and technical knowledge. Key to the Alliance is a combined effort in communication by more effective use of web sites, magazines, newsletters, etc. The Alliance encourages employers to incorporate safety and health into their overall business management system. Links will also be established between OSHA area offices and local and state RIMS chapters. Representatives of both organizations will meet quarterly to ensure goals of the Alliance are achieved.
OSHA and the Hispanic Contractors of America are on the fast track to validate the significance of a cooperative Alliance. On April 12-13, OSHA and the Texas Consultation Project worked together on exhibits and presentations at the Second South Texas Construction Conference in Edinburg, Texas. Representatives from OSHA's Corpus Christi area office and the Texas Consultation Program participated in the event aimed at small business construction contractors - many of which are Hispanic-owned - who employ a large number of Hispanic workers. Information on OSHA as well as resources available to businesses to assist with safety and health compliance was also presented. OSHA and HCA signed an Alliance on March 5 to promote safe and healthful working conditions for Hispanic construction workers.
A March 27 agreement between OSHA, Bath Iron Works (BIW) and four local labor organizations is setting the course for identifying and eliminating injuries and illnesses at the shipbuilder's Maine facilities. Under the agreement, BIW will fully implement comprehensive safety and health programs at all its worksites, and OSHA will meet with the shipbuilder and its labor representatives to assist in safety training. Said John Henshaw, OSHA Administrator: "This agreement highlights the value of business, workers and government combining their respective skills for the common purpose of securing a safer, healthier work environment at one of Maine's largest private employers."
The following companies were approved last month for new or continued participation in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP): Brown & Root Services-Pioneer-Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX (Merit to Star); Frito-Lay, Wooster, OH (New Star); Ciba Special Chemicals Corp., Newport, DE (Merit to Star); General Electric Transformer Division, Somersworth, NH (Star re-approval); ExxonMobil Chemical Co., Stratford, CT (Star re-approval); PPL Susquehanna, LLC, Berwick, PA (New Star); Acushnet Custom Operations, New Bedford, MA (Star re-approval); Delta Airlines Technical Operations Center, Atlanta (New Merit); Texas Genco, L.P., Texas Genco Plant Operations, P.H. Robinson Power Plant, Bacliff, TX (New Star); Space Gateway Support, LLC, Kennedy Space Center, FL (New Demonstration); FLEXcon Co., Inc., Spencer, MA (Star re-approval); and International Paper, Forest Park, Forest Park, GA
OSHA's Harrisburg, PA area office entered into an OSHA Strategic Partnership this month with the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors.
Editor: Bill Wright, OSHA Office of Public Affairs, 202-693-1999