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1953. ERGONOMICS PROGRAMS: PREVENTING MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDERS
Priority: Economically Significant. Major under 5 USC 801.
Unfunded Mandates: This action may affect the private sector under PL 104-4.
Legal Authority: 29 USC 651; 29 USC 652; 29 USC 655; 29 USC 657; 33 USC 941; 40 USC 333
CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910
Legal Deadline: None
Abstract: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a leading cause of pain, suffering, and disability in American workplaces. Since the 1980's, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had a number of initiatives related to addressing these problems, including enforcement under the general duty clause, issuance of guidelines for the meatpacking industry, and development of other compliance-assistance materials.
Ultimately, the Agency decided that, given the magnitude of the problem, a regulatory approach was appropriate to ensure that the largest possible number of employers and employees become aware of the problems and ways of preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. OSHA has examined and analyzed the extensive scientific literature documenting the problem of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the causes of the problem, and effective solutions; conducted a telephone survey of over 3,000 establishments regarding their current practices to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders; and completed a number of site visits to facilities with existing programs. The Agency has also held numerous stakeholder meetings to solicit input from individuals regarding the possible contents of a standard to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Agency representatives have delivered numerous outreach presentations to people who are interested in this subject and consulted professionals in the field to obtain expert opinions on the options considered by the Agency. Information obtained from these activities is undergoing Agency review.
The Agency believes that the scientific evidence supports the need for a standard and that the availability of effective and reasonable means to control these hazards has been demonstrated. The Agency, therefore, has developed a proposed rule for ergonomics and is currently working on a final rule.
Statement of Need: OSHA estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the United States account for over 600,000 injuries and illnesses that are serious enough to result in days away from work (34 percent of all lost workday injuries reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). These disorders now account for one out of every three dollars spent on workers' compensation. It is estimated that employers spend as much as $15-$18 billion a year on direct costs for MSD-related workers' compensation, and up to three to four times that much for indirect costs, such as those associated with hiring and training replacement workers. In addition to these monetary effects, MSDs often impose a substantial personal toll on affected workers who can no longer work or perform simple personal tasks like buttoning their clothes or brushing their hair.
Scientific evidence associates MSDs with stresses to various body parts caused by the way certain tasks are performed. The positioning of the body and the type of physical work that must be done to complete a job may cause persistent pain and lead to deterioration of the affected joints, tissues, and muscles. The longer the worker must maintain a fixed or awkward posture, exert force, repeat the same movements, experience vibration, or handle heavy items, the greater the chance that such a disorder will occur. These job-related stresses are referred to as "ergonomic risk factors," and the scientific literature demonstrates that exposure to these risk factors, particularly in combination, significantly increases an employee's risk of developing a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. Jobs involving exposure to ergonomic risk factors appear in all types of industries and in all sizes of facilities.
Musculoskeletal disorders occur in all parts of the body -- the upper extremity, the lower extremity, and the back. An example of the increasing magnitude of the problem involves repeated trauma to the upper extremity, or that portion of the body above the waist, in forms such as carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder tendinitis. In industries such as meatpacking and automotive assembly, approximately 10 out of 100 workers report work-related MSDs from repeated trauma each year. The number of work-related back injuries occurring each year is even larger than the number of upper extremity disorders. Industries reporting a large number of cases of back injuries include hospitals and personal care facilities.
The evidence OSHA has assembled and analyzed indicates that technologically and economically feasible measures are available to significantly reduce exposures to ergonomic risk factors and the risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Many companies that have voluntarily implemented ergonomics programs have demonstrated that effective ergonomic interventions are available to reduce MSDs. Many of these interventions are simple and inexpensive, but nevertheless have a significant effect on the occurrence of work- related musculoskeletal disorders. Benefits include substantial savings in workers' compensation costs, increased productivity, and decreased turnover.
Summary of Legal Basis: The legal basis for the rule is a finding by the Secretary of Labor that workers in workplaces within OSHA's jurisdiction are at significant risk of incurring work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Alternatives: OSHA has considered many different regulatory alternatives. These include variations in the scope of coverage, particularly with regard to industrial sectors, work processes, and degree of hazard.
Anticipated Cost and Benefits: Implementation costs of an ergonomics program standard would include those related to identifying and correcting problem jobs using engineering and administrative controls. Benefits expected include reduced pain and suffering, both from prevented disorders as well as reduced severity in those disorders that do occur, decreased numbers of workers' compensation claims, and reduced lost work time. Secondary benefits may accrue from improved quality and productivity due to better designed work systems.
Risks: The data OSHA has obtained and analyzed indicate that employees are at significant risk of developing or aggravating musculoskeletal disorders due to exposure to risk factors in the workplace. In addition, information from site visits, the scientific literature, the Agency's compliance experience, and other sources indicates that there are economically and technologically feasible means of addressing and reducing these risks to prevent the development or aggravation of such disorders, or to reduce their severity. These data and analyses were presented in the preamble to the proposed standard published in the Federal Register.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Governmental Jurisdictions, Organizations
Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Agency Contact: Marthe B. Kent, Acting Director, Directorate of Health
Standards Programs, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, Room N3718, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, FP Building,
Washington, DC 20210
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