ASSE Urges Clarification at Chicago Ergo Hearing

A group representing ASSE told OSHA officials at a hearing in Chicago last week that an ergonomics standard is needed, but not the one proposed by OSHA.

A group representing the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) told OSHA officials at a hearing in Chicago last week that an ergonomics standard is needed, but not the one proposed by OSHA.

Representing ASSE, John Cheffer, CSP, and chair of the ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee, testified, "We believe there needs to be an ergonomics standard. However, ASSE is concerned that the flaws in the proposed rule such as the single incident trigger and its interference with established state workers'' compensation programs may result in the rejection of the entire standard. It''s just poor policy."

Cheffer expresses a need for a stand-alone ergonomic standard, but outlined several major concerns that should be addressed before moving forward with the OSHA proposal.

Cheffer also noted that ASSE has provided OSHA with a counter ergonomics standard, based on input from its 33,000 members.

ASSE says its proposal offers a more reasonable and user friendly approach to the control of workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and ergonomic exposures than the current OSHA proposal.

"Many of ASSE''s members, who work for all types of industries, have developed and implemented cutting edge ergonomic safety programs that have led to significant decreases in the number of workplace MSDs," said Cheffer.

ASSE is urging OSHA to develop a standard which enhances occupational safety and health, and leave the issue of payment for rehabilitation, social issues and workers'' compensation reengineering to the existing federal and state laws and regulations governing those areas.

"We have concerns about the apparent social engineering agenda contained in the current OSHA proposal which overshadows the prevention aspects of the standard," said Cheffer.

ASSE also wants OSHA to promulgate this as a safety standard, not as a health standard as they are proposing to do and believe that ergonomic injuries should not be treated in a different manner than other workplace injuries.

Last Thursday was the final day of public hearings scheduled by OSHA in Chicago on the proposed standard.

Hearings begin again in Portland, Ore., this week and end in Washington, D.C., in early May.

Once the hearings are concluded and comments are in from all the key stakeholders, Congress may hold additional hearings.

After that, it is expected that the OSHA ergonomic standard could become law by 2001, unless contested by a lawsuit.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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