- Standard Number:1910.900(c)
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
December 28, 2000
Mr. Frank White
Organization Resources Counselors, Inc.
1910 Sunderland Place, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. White:
This responds to Organization Resources Counselors' (ORC's) petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for reconsideration of certain provisions of the Ergonomics Program standard that are related to the standard's "grandfather clause" (paragraph (c) of 29 CFR 1910.900). The final standard was issued on November 14, 2000, and will be effective on January 16, 2001. ORC's petition specifically asks OSHA to extend the January 16, 2001, effective date until March 17, 2001, to allow additional time for employers with existing ergonomics programs to evaluate the effectiveness of those programs. In addition, the petition requests that employers whose programs may be eligible for grandfather status be given until October 15, 2001, to include all "problem jobs" in their ergonomics program, to reduce MSD hazards to one of the standard's control endpoints, and to evaluate the effectiveness of such controls. OSHA believes that the following discussion will clarify OSHA's intent with respect to the standard's grandfather clause and each of the points raised in ORC's petition.
First, the intent of paragraph (c) of the final Ergonomics Program standard is to allow employers with established ergonomics programs that are effectively addressing MSD hazards in their workplaces to continue to implement such programs, providing that their program meets the basic requirements of paragraph (c). By recognizing existing effective programs, OSHA is explicitly acknowledging that many features of grandfathered programs, such as the criteria used to identify jobs for inclusion in the program and the deadlines for achieving specified control levels, will be different from those required of employers complying with paragraphs (d) through (y) of the standard. To that end, the standard requires employers, by January 16, 2001, to have performed an initial evaluation of their program to determine whether the program: (1) includes the required core elements and "sub-elements" of paragraphs (c)(1)(i) through (c)(1)(v); (2) whether the program as a whole has been effective, as measured by any reasonable measure of effectiveness; and (3) is in writing.
The standard does not require employers to find, on this initial evaluation, that the program is without deficiencies or that it complies in every respect with the program required by OSHA's standard. Instead, OSHA expects employers with effective existing programs to have identified, by January 16, 2001, any missing elements, sub-elements, or deficiencies in their programs and to have established a reasonable timeline for addressing these issues. Employers with effective programs who have established such a timeline by January 16, 2001, and conform to the timeline thereafter will be considered eligible for grandfather status.
Further, the initial program evaluations required by paragraph (c)(1)(v) of the standard are not limited to evaluations conducted between November 14, 2000 and January 16, 2001; the Agency understands that evaluations conducted before the standard's publication date may continue to be relevant to the employer's current program. To the extent that such evaluations are relevant to the employer's current program, they may be used to satisfy the standard's initial evaluation requirement. Moreover, although the standard is establishment-based, OSHA understands that many multi-establishment companies evaluate their safety and health and/or ergonomics programs on a corporate-wide basis. The initial evaluation of program effectiveness required by paragraph (c)(1)(v) may be conducted on a corporate-wide basis and still meet the requirements of that paragraph.
In addition, as your petition notes, paragraphs (e) and (f) of 1910.900 require employers to follow certain criteria to identify jobs for potential inclusion in their ergonomics programs. However, OSHA does not require employers with programs qualifying for grandfather status to use these criteria to identify jobs for inclusion in the program or to have identified all such jobs by a given date. Instead, OSHA expects employers with grandfathered programs to have established, by January 16, 2001, a process for identifying jobs that may pose MSD hazards to employees in them. The employer's process must include all of its general industry job categories potentially posing such hazards to employees.
Finally, OSHA is not requiring that all MSD hazards be controlled by January 16, 2001, in order for an employer's program to qualify for grandfathered status. The preamble to the standard, at 65 FR page 68300, clearly states the Agency's intent in this regard.
As this discussion makes clear, the steps employers seeking to qualify for grandfather status are required to take by January 16, 2001, can readily be completed by that date. They will, in many cases, already have been completed. Accordingly, OSHA does not believe it necessary to extend the standard's effective date, as your petition requests.
Charles N. Jeffress