Many businesses are scrambling to meet the new ergonomics standards issued by OSHA, which took effect yesterday.
OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress issued a statement saying that "as OSHA''s ergonomics standard takes effect, more than 200 million workers across America can look forward to a brighter, more healthful future."
"That''s because over the next 10 years, 4.6 million workers from poultry processors to data entry specialists to warehouse workers will be spared painful, potentially debilitating work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)," Jeffress continued.
According to OSHA, repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendenitis, cost employers as much as $20 billion annually in workers'' compensation.
OSHA estimates that as a result of the standard, employers will see medical expenses and workers'' compensation costs go down and productivity go up.
The agency estimates total savings will amount to $9.1 billion each year.
"Beginning this coming October, the nearly 85 percent of U.S. employers who have not addressed ergonomics in their workplaces will begin to do so, and the results will benefit everyone," said Jeffress. "Workers will report problems earlier and get the help they need to prevent serious injury."
Jeffress also noted that yesterday marked the date for progressive employers who already have ergonomics programs in place to complete their initial evaluations to see if they qualify under the "grandfather" provisions of the standard.
"We anticipate that most, if not all, current programs will immediately meet, or can be easily fine-tuned to meet, the more flexible requirements under this provision. The only change necessary for most programs will be to adopt an MSD management policy by Jan. 16, 2002," said Jeffress.
by Virginia Sutcliffe