Washington State lawmakers are considering the repeal of a 2003 voter initiative that restricts the state’s Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) ability to regulate work practices related to ergonomics.
“The legislature finds that the absence of the Department of Labor & Industries’ authority to regulate working practices to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and disorders has contributed to excess and avoidable claims and costs across the workers’ compensation system for all employers in Washington,” the bill states. This has also led to high costs for “those employers who maintain safer workplaces without high incidents of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders.”
Critical industries seeing high rate of musculoskeletal injuries
Work-related musculoskeletal injuries account for at least one-third of all workers’ compensation claims in the state that:
- result in time loss and wage replacement
- are more severe than the average nonfatal injury or illness, and
- are a common cause of long-term disability.
Many of the state’s critical industries, including health care, are at high risk of musculoskeletal injuries and many of those same industries are currently experiencing staffing shortages, according to the bill. These injuries also lead to absenteeism, decreased productivity and increased costs for health care, disability and workers’ compensation.
“The legislature therefore intends to repeal the prohibition on regulating workplace practices related to musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, thereby allowing targeted safety efforts to more effectively and efficiently prevent these workplace injuries,” the bill states.