Safety and OSHA News

Ergonomics rules: States and feds gearing up


Employers in another state may soon be facing mandatory rules to reduce the number of employees’ ergonomic injuries.

Michigan is in line to join California as the only states to require employers to have ergonomic programs.

Michigan’s rule would require that all employees be given ergonomic awareness training that covers:

  • occupational risk factors
  • signs and symptoms that indicate an ergonomic hazard may be present
  • a process for reporting that an ergonomic hazard may be present, and
  • a process for assessing and responding to ergonomic occupational risk.

Companies would have to document that training was performed.

Employers would also have to establish a process for assessing and responding to ergonomic occupational risk factors that includes:

  • employee involvement
  • assessment of ergonomic risks, and
  • elimination, reduction or control of ergonomic hazards where economically and technically feasible.

The proposal continues to undergo state review, and a public hearing will have to be held. However, members of two key state commissions unanimously approved the measure in January.

The rule would take effect six months after it’s enacted.

From 2 states to 50?

While Michigan is working on its own rule, President Obama has said he favors restoring a federal ergonomics standard that would require employers to educate employees about musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), keep records on these types of injuries and determine their risks for MSDs.

Eliminating or reducing ergonomic injuries can save businesses significant costs. About $1 of every $3 spent on workers’ comp are spent on MSDs. Overall, U.S. employers absorb $20 billion in costs associated with ergonomic injuries.

Do you have an ergonomics program at your workplace? What do you think about state or federal rules to require employers to have ergonomic programs? Let us know about your program and opinions in the Comments Box below.

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  1. dave Lemke says:

    I do not know about you folks but this to me is very scary. I deal with the construction industry. Where are we headed. I understand that ergonomics is a big deal and that our bodies do not like repetitive motion. We wear out. What is good for one body is not for another. An operator of heavy equipment sits to much and wears out his or her wrists running controls. Weight lifters break down their joints, Secretary’s also get carpel tunnel or bad posture. Does this finally end at it is dangerous to get out of bed, do not sit to long, stand to long, workout to much. Are we looking for posters that say “This job is hazardous to your health!” Where do you suppose attorneys will take that situation. Seems to me before we can right rules around ergonomics we had better think how to insure all the employers in this world will be able to keep their doors open. People need to be responsible for them selves. Why do we always blame or place responsibility on the employer for teaching educating and thinking for us. If my body is not fit for this job why should my employer have to retrain me. If I am truly of value then maybe My employer will want to help me! I am pretty sure that he should not have to retrain me. Just a thought! Maybe Unions who provide much of Americas labor force should be paying for that awareness and education. I guess what I am saying really is just be careful! Our country is losing jobs every day due to high cost of employees and materials and governments fees and costs. Do we really need to create more reason for jobs to go elsewhere. It will not be long and we will all have to move out of the country to have the jobs we now have and how will the rich and the poor live with middle America gone. Who will be paying taxes.

  2. Brian Donahue says:

    Ergonomics is a major part of our everyday lives. From pushing and pulling, twisting and turning, proper lifting techniques, to just getting out of bed in the morning. Texas needs an Ergonomic Rule of thumb.

  3. The nanny state marches on. On the job injury rates have gone done over the past several years, yet the government still wants to keep getting its influence in all aspects of our lives.
    Expect more of the same from this liberal congress and Nobama. Just like Dave says above, they’re going to take all motion whatsoever out of jobs – that only leads to more robots and fewer jobs. Which may not be a bad thing – because robots can’t unionize.

  4. Tony Salins says:

    The United States Postal Service with the partnership of the American Postal Workers Union, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and OSHA has an ergonomics process in place. The program has been around since 2003 and has reduced musculoskeletal recordable rate by 38% and lifting and handling rate by 40%. It has been a great success for the Postal Service and its employees.

  5. We put in an ergonomics program a few years ago, based on previous injuries. We use to have 10-15 ergonomical injuries per year minimum, now we haven’t had an ergonomic injurie in approximately 18 months. I have seen a big improvement since the onset of our program, we have actually put very little money and not a major amount of time in to accomplish these improvements. We have saved approximately $160,000.00 in worker’s comp costs since the start of the program. It doesn’t always take a lot to make beneficial improvements. We are in Michigan so we have been getting prepared for the new standard.

  6. Larry I would like to ask you what do you tell an employee and his family when the employee sustains an injury that is caused by poor ergonomic design and the injury will reduce the workability of the employee for life. The implenmentation of an Ergo Standard will help decrease preventable injuries.

  7. If all the proposed rules did was encourage companies to find and eliminate MSD hazards, it wouldn’t be too bad. Unfortunately, what it will, in fact, do is provide a fertile ground for both lawsuits and union actions. Particularly if all the employee has to do is assert that a particular job causes discomfort.

    From personal experience, some employees will be more then willing to “work the system” to maximize their personal benefit, even if it results in unnecessary higher costs for the company. And then engage with unscrupulous lawyers to extract further compensation for what may very well be a phantom, or non-work related injury. For instance, at one plant, a maintenance employee was reportedly involved in a collision over the weekend while playing softball. That next Monday, while performing a routine task, he “suffered” a shoulder injury that lingered for more then six months, forced his re-assignment to a desk job, and resulted in surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. After another six months of physical therapy, the employee returned to full status, and retired three months later with full benefits. He then tried to sue the company for work place injuries causing “partial disability” related to his shoulder.

    With the gaping holes in definition included in the last MSD rule making, I have no doubt this will be a boon to unions and lawyers, and a disaster for any business in which material handling is required.

  8. The thought of keeping work areas safe from ergonomic hazards is a noble idea, but in reality, this will be an open checkbook for OSHA inspectors. As it stands now, OSHA laws can be quite vague. If you add an ergonomics law to this, every inspector will have their own interpretation of it, and there will be no straight answer to the many questions that will come from this. Anyone out there from a California Company, chime in.

    If this law comes to fruition, I hope they stay away from bringing in the mathematics that will require most of us to revisit college level pre-calculus again (google NIOSH lifting equation), and keep it simple. If a company can show that they have done an analysis of some type, and make an attempt to implement solutions, then they should be given credit. I support companies being accountable for worksite safety, I don’t support the OSHA cops penalizing companies for disobeying regulations that they themselves have many individual interpretations of.

  9. Mac Maclaren says:

    I expect that The Postal Service will advertize that they reduced ‘lifting and handling’ by another 17% by not delivering mail on Saturday. Sigh!!

  10. Most companies have implemented some sort of ergonomic analysis of job tasks and employee training. This has been driven by the number and cost of repetitive motion and overexertion injuries. Do we need another set of OSHA regulations? If they are like the last set proposed I hope not.

    If your company does not want to implement an ergonomics program, you will most likely continue to pay higher WC costs. Companies that watch the bottom already have implemented ergonomic programs from simple training to complex analysis and training.

  11. I agree totally with David Lempke. Get the government off our shoulders and let us go back to being responsible and accountable for our actions. We really are not free in this country.

  12. While I do agree with the jist of Davids comments, the reality is that there will be new more extensive rules by OSHA. My company has seen a significant reduction in MSDs since we implemented an ergo program 3 years ago. I am fearful of employees and lawyers “working the system” but, what else is new?

  13. One of the reasons why the ergonomic rules that OSHA was trying to get approved had failed to get its ugly head above water in the past, is because smart businesses came together, and had to wake someone up at OSHA. It was a huge economic threat years ago, and it would be an even bigger threat now. The doors will be wide open for Mass law suits against every company in this country. If these rules pass, even “A” employees will change, and companies all over the country will have to incur not only the expense of trying to get their employees to comply, but the expense of huge legal ramifications.
    OSHA is now in a position to get plenty of financial backing to fuel this drive once again. This $$ will also come from a majority of companies that work hard to promote the safety of their employees, and are thrown in the same boat as the few careless ones. Granted it wouldn’t hurt to circulate information to help lower Muscular Skeletal Disorder’s and make some numbers look good, but the bottom line is the companies in America are going to be expected to accept responsibility for past, present and future claims that they caused the employee’s repetitive motion illness. We as companies have a responsibility for the safety of our employees, but what good is it, if it hurts the large population of american workers and they watch the companies they work for close their doors?

  14. I am responsible for employee safety and workers’ comp for a small hospital. I, for one, would like to know more abaout the post office ergonomic program. I want to do all I can to prevent injuries to our staff. As Larry says, an injury can be a life altering event.

  15. I think we need to stop giving people a reson to blame the company they work for in regards to all there achs and pains… i mean at some point we need to say enough, I mean heck the employer is not the blame for every medical problem workers have.

    At this rate the govererment is running all the jobs over seas

  16. This is simply indicative of the “change” promised last election. “Change” in the point of America becoming more of a poilice-state than ever. Ergonomic-related information comes with the territory of teaching employees how to lift, carry, store, etc. (i.e., Materials Handling Training), or use tools properly – even with General Industry training ergo-related points are commonplace. But to allow more government laws to be passed under this topic will give more “fodder” for case-lawyers, cause more overhead for many companies who do not have in-house trainers. Of course, when Obama passes his law that companies will have to become union when 50% or more employees sign a petition, we won’t have to worry about hiring our for trainers – the Don Union will provide …
    Lemke (above) makes a good point about all of this.

  17. Jo, if you will go to the following link, you can find out more about the Postal Service’s ergonomic process.

    It is quite an involved program and in the facilities where it has been implemented, the Musculoskeletal Disorders have been greatly reduced. Good luck with your endeavors.

  18. Folks;
    In reading the comments several of you have good if not grerat observations …that being said we have had an “ergo” program in place for the past 9 years we do ergo hazard assements on every station/task in our manufacturing facility each year we use them to “target ” areas for improvment which in turn is melded into our overall “safety bridge plan”. Each and every time we have a “near miss” filed by a member we preform a full accedient investagtion that includes an ergo asessment( even if its a paper cut). Recently we had a member file a claim for a “sore shoulder” the reality was that I attended an Archery tournament ware I watched the member compete he shot several hunderd arrows that weekend and won second place….he came in on the following Monday to ‘open a claim” when I asked him why he thought it was work related he stated that the Doctor told him it was ( this is not the only case in fact we have had a recordable rating avareging .75 for the past two years and the injuries that we have had have been soft tissue injuries that were questonable at best much like the case mentioned) So yes we wound up paying for a soft tissue injury that was not ours! The real issues I see with the “proposed program” is that Ergonomics uses the law of avarages ( avarage height, apendage length, strengths etc…) so even using a review system like the WA State hazard zone check sheet you will not completely eliminate ergo hazards and in fact you may even set your self and a member up for a fall! We are all obligated by our profession to ensure the safety of our members to the best of our ability and I believe whoe heartedly that we do. Unfortunatly there are no provisions for members who scam the system for there own personal gain even if its fraudlent,the doctors add to this by tying any ach or pain to the “workplace” and our eatemed litigators jump at any chance to gain access to the employers bank account now we are looking at OSHA renforcing this bad behavior. I do belive a standard is necessary like any other aspect of the safety rhelm… however I believe that implementing the standard with out addressing the employees responsibility in ensuring their own safety on or off work, the doctors responsibility to actually find the ” real”root cause of a given condition,the states responsibility to develop sound principles and tools for employers to address ergo issues,and the work comp system to effectively identify fraudulant claims the only thing it is going to achieve is a much larger and substantial cost increase to the employer which is passed on to the consumer or shipped “off shore” enabling already horrible work conditions to continue exsist take a peek a China for a great example did all the lead paint get put on products by a robot????.
    Overall an ergonomic program is a must for any good safety program it reduces physcial stress on our members allowing more product to be made with less effort and effectivly adds to the bottom line but with out the rest of the issues surrounding the WC system and the employer being the only “accountable entity” we will continue to bail out an ocean with a teaspoon…

  19. “Identify & Reduce” that is the basis of the USPS Ergonomic Risk Reduction Process. It’s a process made up of teams of employees trained to Identify the major risk factors involved in an individual job task. They are then to try to find ways to Reduce the risk factors. This process has been very successful. If you can adapt the job to the person and keep more people in the workforce all of the companies involved will be much better off and so will the US economy.

  20. Terry L. Malcolm Sr. says:

    I think most companies take responsibility for their employees safety in how their jobs are designed for production work. Some regulation is needed for this purpose but only to a point. The problem I have is when a employee visits a doctor the doctor seems to assume and diagnose that the condition has been caused by the work environment. The doctors do not even consider what this person might do outside of work (sports, knitting, crocheting, remodeling home etc…). Usually their extra-curricular activities are far more abusive in regards for this condition than their job is!! And it’s a fact as you get older some things just don’t work as good as they once did.

  21. I am 49 and working as a contractor for a large corporation. My office set-up is killing my wrists and hands and yet I’m afraid to say anything because if I complain they will simply let my contract expire. They’ve been pretty hostile about accommodating requests from contractors. Jobs are tight and I desperately need to keep this contract going as long as possible. I’m not trying to scam anybody; I just want a more comfortable office environment that doesn’t damage my hands. Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks.

  22. John: If you go on the internet there are all kinds of things available to help you set up your office to be more ergonomically friendly, they have guides, exercises, etc., it’s all free. The biggest thing to remember when setting up an office environment is neutral postures, and no contact stress. Keep your wrists, arms, and hands from coming into contact with sharp desk edges. For neutral postures, make sure your shoulders are not bearing all the weight of your arms, keep your wrists straight. It is just a question of trying different things and positions until you achieve the neutral postures and wrists straight. The stretching exercises they have work wonders also.

  23. What I’m reading above must be from company owners, managers or people that a company has in thier pocket. In the real world workers wear out their bodies and are thrown away. Players in sports get millions in salaries because they know they are going to get injured and wear out quick. But, the blue collare worker is thrown to the curb if their bodies wear out. In the auto to heavey mechinery world the techs have wrist, shoulders, elbows, back, neck. hip, and knee issues all the time. Does the employer investigate and/or train against the injures – no. Matter of fact there is no repetative motion workers comp for this class of worker. Stand on a frame rail or tie rod all day building an engine in difficult positions torquing a head anywhere from 100 to 350 ft lbs. Or, dropping in 40 lb cylinder kits at arms length, working with your arms equal to or over your head all day tightening bolts holding parts while starting a bolt all at your arms length. Wrist constantly ractcheting back and forth all day. Does the employer even care – no. I have had two disc removed from my neck which in surgery could not feel anything from the neck down to find a blood clot pushing on a spinat cord. had to teach my left side how to function again. Recovered doing saome job and had both rotator cuff done with the ligament sown back on to the shoulder. Numb places all over my limbs, athritis in neck, shoulder, wrist and knees. All orthopedic surgens told me to change my line of work because I will never make 68 at this rate. I’ve been doing this for 28 years and have another 18 before retirement. All doctors state that my problems are work related but will not go up against WC on my behalf. No lawyer will help me. My employer thinks it is a joke and has no concern but you better make productivity. You can talk your crap above when you are not the one that is doing it because you do not know what a emploee does. Owners/managers, let the ones that have done it make the decisions for the ones that are doing it. But, that will not happen because that is going to cut into your profits. And you will keep throwing people away when they are used up. Put your kids in our position and see what you do for them. But, that will not happen because there are different standards for the white collar than what you have for the blue collar.

  24. Oh my goodness!!! I am so tired of people making comments just for the sake of it…. If you read most of the articles here, the LA times, or any other medium to be informed about what happens in the world you will probably notice that we are so messed up that we need very specific and strict laws to protect those who do need protection.
    Unfortunately it is clear that companies are not just going to put people over money at any point. Companies just like people need rules, and laws so they can do the right thing not necessarily because they understand why but for the fear of the consequences.
    If the people who have the power to set up the rules and laws to protect us from companies or individuals without ethics or morals do not set something up then what???? The very reason Osha and other agencies like this exist is the fact that enough fatalities and things have happened to require protections for employees.

    Stop making comments about our president that make no sense. In this particular case I applaud Obama for trying to make companies do the right thing…. Because it is a fact that ergonomic programs do help!

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