Musculoskeletal Definitions: Too Arbitrary, Ill-Defined

By April 8, 2010General, Regulations

Since we’re giving the Associated Builders and Contractors accolades today, we also note ABC’s excellent statement on OSHA’s plans to add reporting requirements for musculoskeletal definitions just posted online. From “ABC Urges OSHA to Abandon Proposed Musculoskeletal Reporting Rule“:

ABC March 30 objected to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed rule that would revise the OSHA Form 300 to include an additional reporting column for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). The proposed rule would amend OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation, although OSHA claims it would not require employers to implement any new controls in the workplace.

In its comments, ABC expressed concern over the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) largely due to the vague and subjective definition of what would constitute an MSD. The NPRM defines MSDs as “disorders for the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs, except those caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or other similar accidents.” ABC pointed out that the definition groups together a variety of disorders and symptoms that are not necessarily related. In addition, ABC noted that even the scientific community has been unable to settle on a reliable definition or cause of most MSDs, making OSHA’s definition seem even more arbitrary.

“In light of the inability to define, diagnose or determine the cause of MSDs with any degree of precision, the logical conclusion, mandated by the applicable Occupational Safety and Health Act criteria, is that OSHA must acknowledge the limitations it faces in drafting a workable MSD provision and ultimately abandon the NPRM,” ABC stated in its comments.

The Labor Policy Institute, an initiative of the National Association of Manufacturers, has a fact sheet on OSHA’s proposed MSD recordkeeping, which the NAM also sees as a precursor to a broad, new and troubling ergonomics standard.

The issue arose several times in an online chat that OSHA officials held Wednesday on the Department of Labor’s strategic plan. A transcript of the chat is here.

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