Repeated trauma injuries continue to decline dramatically, according to the latest statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The injuries have declined by 24 percent since 1994 and make up just 4 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses.
"This is good news for the American worker and employer," said PJ Edington, executive director of the Center for Office Technology (COT). "While we don't know precisely why we are seeing this impressive decrease in repeated trauma cases, it certainly coincides with the growth of voluntary ergonomics programs by business and industry."
Despite this encouraging trend, these types of injuries are the target of the controversial proposed ergonomics regulation from OSHA that the National Coalition on Ergonomics (NCE) calls "reckless and lacking in sound science."
"We oppose the OSHA ergonomic standard proposal because it would be extremely costly; but more importantly, it fails to assure the prevention of even one injury," said Ed Gilroy, co-chair of the NCE. "This new report from the BLS is reason number 1,001 to call it into question."
Although the COT believes the drop in trauma disorders is encouraging, it too is questioning the need for an ergonomics regulation.
"As OSHA continues to work towards the implementation of a controversial ergonomics standard, it should consider if a regulatory approach will do more harm than good as companies continue to experiment with developing ergonomics solutions," commented COT's Edington.
The NCE stands by its reasoning that there is no opinion from the medical and scientific communities as to the basic ergonomic-related questions, such as, how many repetitions are too many or how heavy a lift is too heavy.
"Year after year the number of workers continues to rise, yet these numbers continue to fall," said Gilroy. "Employers are committed to providing a safe workplace. While we don't know enough to regulate, these numbers reflect the common sense steps employers are taking to protect their workers."
U.S. industry reported 253.3 repeated trauma cases in 1998, 9.2 percent lower than the 1997 figures and a drop of 35 percent since 1994.
BLS defines repeated trauma as those conditions due to repeated motion, vibration, or pressure, such as synovitis, tenosynovitis, noise-induced hearing loss and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Three-fifths of these cases occurred in the manufacturing sector in 1998, according to BLS statistics.