Construction Industry Appeals Voluntary Ergonomics Standard

On Nov. 9, trade groups representing commercial and residential builders appealed the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) voluntary ergonomics standard for the construction industry.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) oversaw the process that led to ANSI’s adoption of the standard, ANSI/ASSE A10.40-200X, for final review on June 4. The voluntary standard offers resources to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and encourages training and use of protective equipment and engineering controls. Its suggestions include offering breaks and job rotation for repetitive tasks and allowing employees to work with items at waist height to avoid bending over.

The construction industry appeal, however, stated that there is no scientific evidence to support the need for the standard or evidence that the standard could prevent MSD injuries, and calls for the standard’s “immediate withdrawal.”

Voting Process was Flawed, Construction Industry Says

According to the appeal, the committee that voted 76 percent in favor of the standard did not represent a consensus because it was stacked with pro-ergonomic members. The appeal also claimed the process was flawed by “fatal procedural deficiencies.”

“It strains credulity to assert that a voluntary consensus standard exists in the face of opposition by the construction industry employers,” the appeal said, and added that some of the issues “are so contentious they do not lend themselves to the development of consensus standards.”

About half of all ANSI voluntary standards are later used to support or create federal rules. The industry may be concerned that OSHA might model a future rule based on the ANSI standard, or may begin citing employers for ergonomics infractions because of the standard.

Furthermore, if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, it could mean the return of a federal ergonomics standard; most Democratic candidates currently support preventing workers from ergonomic-related injuries. Construction companies were exempt from the ergonomics rule imposed by the Clinton administration.

An appeal decision is expected in February 2008.

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