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"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 final standard."
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' compensation costs.
"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 disorders."
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 early March.
"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 exists.
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 workplaces.
"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.
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This news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov/ under media releases.
Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone 202-693-1999.
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