ASSE Comments on OSHA's Ergonomic Standard

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) supports most of OSHA's final ergonomics standard but believes some flaws in the rule still exist.

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In response to OSHA''s final ergonomics standard, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), said it is supportive of most of the standard but believes some flaws in the rule are still evident.

"The problem of workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) or repetitive motion syndrome is not a pie in the sky issue, it exists and we need to address this now, not wait another 10 to 20 years," said ASSE President Samuel Gualardo, CSP. "ASSE is pleased to see that OSHA adopted some of our suggestions but are concerned that some of the flaws in the proposed rule still exist. These flaws, along with its complexity, could unfortunately result in the rejection of the entire standard."

Gualardo said many ASSE members have consistently commented to the association on what they see as the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal. Some of these concerns include:

  • The action trigger now appears to be partially based on private sector initiatives that ASSE members did not have the opportunity to comment on and participate in. There still appears to be the absence of a clear triggering incident -- ASSE said it remains concerned that the standard could be triggered by just one incident in any workplace and that could displace effective workplace safety programs now in place.
  • The work restriction protection (WRP) provision. The view of ASSE has been that WRP is a significant impediment to finalization of the standard, and it has recommended that it be removed.
  • ASSE said it still believes that the recordkeeping provision might be inconsistent with the proposed recordkeeping standard.

ASSE said it continues to take the position that ergonomics and the standard is safety related. Therefore, the association believes that the standard should have come out of the OSHA Safety Standards Directorate and not from the Health Standards Directorate.

From a positive perspective, Gualardo pointed out there have been some improvements in the proposal.

"From our perspective the final rule is an improvement over the original proposal," said Gualardo. "A good number of ASSE''s observations and suggestions were incorporated into the final rule. From that perspective, it would appear that safety professionals did have success on the language and formulation of the rule."

Gualardo added that ASSE''s biggest concern with the entire original proposal was that it placed too much emphasis on health care professionals.

"The final standard appears to have taken a more realistic approach to the positive impact safety professionals can have on ergonomics in the workplace," noted Gualardo. "These professionals will be responsible for implementing ergonomic engineering and administrative controls in the workplace and assisting the employer in achieving compliance."

Also of note, is the fact that the standard now covers all general industry -- which ASSE recommended.

Gualardo said ASSE''s view historically has been that it makes better sense from the public policy perspective to include all members.

"This is perhaps one of the most sweeping safety regulations we have seen in the last 15 years," said Gualardo. "Our members stand ready to implement the standard, and it will be with great interest and concern that we see how the whole initiative eventually works out."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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