OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
"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."
Trade News Release
Thursday, April 29, 1999
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming (202) 693-1999
Businesses that adopt ergonomics programs to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders should preach what they practice rather than denying the value of these programs, Charles N. Jeffress, who heads OSHA, today told the National Coalition on Ergonomics.
"Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are a national problem that we must address. And we need not, should not and cannot wait any longer to do so," Jeffress said.
He told the group, which opposes development of an OSHA ergonomics standard, that work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome represent a major problem for many employers. They consistently account for about one-third of all serious injuries and illnesses. These injuries, Jeffress said, cost businesses $15 to $20 billion each year in workers' compensation costs alone.
Jeffress stressed the volume and quality of science linking injuries to ergonomic problems, noting that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 600 of 2,000 studies available in 1997 and the National Academy of Sciences conducted its own literature survey in 1998. The Academy report issued last October concluded that there is compelling evidence that reducing physical stress on the job reduces the risk of injuries.
"If ergonomics programs are a drag on productivity and a drain on profits, why are you establishing them?" Jeffress asked coalition members. "Because the opposite is true: good ergonomics is good economics," he said.
"Ergonomics is not an exact science," Jeffress added. "That's because we're dealing with individuals, not robots. Apply the basic principles and adjust as needed. There's some trial and error involved. But it's not rocket science either."
Jeffress said the keys to preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders include "reducing repeated motions, forceful hand exertions prolonged bending or working above shoulder height. Eliminate vibration. Rely on equipment -- not backs -- for heavy or repetitive lifting. Provide 'micro' breaks to allow muscles to recover."
He said OSHA had chosen a program approach for its draft ergonomics standard to provide a framework for employers to address specific high risk areas and at the same time offer them maximum flexibility.
Organizations supporting OSHA's plan to move forward with an ergonomics standard, according to Jeffress, include the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Public Health Association, the AFL-CIO and numerous individual unions and individual employers.
The news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. The full text of the speech as prepared for delivery is also available on the website. Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-693-1999.
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