Administration Setting Stage for Ergonomics Revival

From The Hunton & Williams LLP Labor Policy Task Force’s blog, “Telling Signs That Ergonomic Regulations Are Making A Comeback“:

The Obama Administration recently proposed requirements to ensure that U.S. companies keep more extensive records of repetitive stress and other types of workplace injuries.  This is one of several signs that employers will face more regulation related to “ergonomics,” or the design and functioning of work spaces, equipment, and tasks in such a manner as to avoid such injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA” or the “Agency”) recently announced its intent to reinstate the “musculoskeletal disorder” column on its injury and illness 300 Form.  The Agency is also developing a proposed rule to add a definition of musculoskeletal disorders to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the “Act”).  A notice of the proposed rule-making and opportunity for public comment will be issued in January 2010.

Yes, we see the same signs.

The post notes the OSHA had previously evaluated ergonomic issues by using the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In 2001, OSHA eliminated the musculoskeletal disorder checkbox on the 300 Form, the result of a 2001 settlement agreement with the NAM and others. For a summary of that agreement in National Association of Manufacturers v. Chao, see the NAM’s Legal Beagle entry.

Business Insurance covered the ergonomics issue in a December report, “Employers wary of changes in approach, focus at OSHA.” See also Media Health Leaders, “OSHA Protections May Include Airborne Infectious Disease, Safe Patient Handling.”

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