Insurers Say Study Supports Need for More ErgonomicsResearch

Citing recently published Mayo Clinic findings that heavy keyboard use does not increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, the Alliance of American Insurers pointed to the need for greater ergonomics research.

Citing recently published Mayo Clinic findings that heavy keyboard use does not increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, the Alliance of American Insurers (AAI) pointed to the need for greater study of causation in musculoskeletal disorders.

"This is another example of why we cannot rely on guesses and intuition in creating ergonomic regulations -- or any other kind for that matter," said Kenneth Schloman, counsel for AAI. "Hard science is needed. In this instance, the Mayo Clinic did not find the connection between keyboard use and carpal tunnel as they expected. There are many similar examples from many occupations. This is why we support more research and individualized approaches to ergonomics rules that take into account variations in the workplace."

Schloman continued: "Interestingly, the Mayo Clinic study is right in line with the National Academy of Science report in that, regarding causality, it raises more questions than it answers."

Schloman noted that the NAS study often referenced the complex nature of the connection between these disorders and the workplace.

"The scientific community''s findings do not suggest one simple prescriptive remedy," said Schloman. "This is not to suggest that conditions do not exist or that individuals are not impacted by musculoskeletal disorders. The issue is one of causation."

Causation is one of the fundamental questions of ergonomics that the Department of Labor plans to examine in three public forums next month. The meetings will take place July 16 in the District of Columbia, July 20 in Chicago and July 24 in California.

Legislation is still pending in the Senate that would require OSHA to re-issue another ergonomics rule within two years, to go into effect within 90 days of promulgation.

The bill specifies areas the rule should cover and specifically prohibits any interference with state workers'' compensation laws.

In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, said that the department has not yet decided whether to issue a new rule or offer guidelines and assistance.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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