Ergonomics Advisory Committee Told Work is of "Paramount Importance"

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw welcomed the 15-member National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE) to its first meeting yesterday with a challenge to help the agency achieve its goal of reducing musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace.

"The work you're about to begin is of paramount importance to our nation's workers," Henshaw said. "The advice of this blue-ribbon committee of distinguished experts will directly contribute to the success of our comprehensive plan to drive down ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in the workplace."

The committee was selected by Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao in December and will advise OSHA on ergonomic guidelines, research, outreach and assistance.

"We want you to help us reduce the best available science to practice," Henshaw said. "We need strategies that a plant manager, a front-line supervisor or a small business owner can readily adopt and use right now to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and help workers immediately."

Committee Chair Carter Kerk said that he and the other members "look forward to working with OSHA and providing the best possible advice on how to reduce MSDs in the workplace. That is the agency's goal, and that is our goal too," he said.

The committee also heard from John Howard, M.D., director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), who said that his agency and OSHA were working together on several fronts, including ergonomics. "I am pleased to share information about musculoskeletal research with the committee," he said, adding he looked forward to further collaboration as NIOSH and OSHA "join forces to reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace." Committee members also received comments from the National Coalition of Ergonomics, an industry coalition that filed suit in November 2000 to block OSHA's since-recalled ergonomic standard, calling it "economically damaging", and the AFL-CIO.

Discussion among committee members centered on task-specific guidelines, research needs and efforts, and outreach and assistance methods to communicate the value of ergonomics.

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