OSHA''s ergonomic program standard will go into effect Jan. 16, with activities scheduled to begin no later than October 2001.
Focusing on the reduction of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, it applies to all employers with more than one employee except those in the maritime, construction or agriculture industries or employers who operate a railroad.
Ergonomists with Humantech, a company consulting in occupational ergonomics located in Ann Arbor, Mich., have put together five things your company can do to prepare for this new requirement.
- 1. Read the summary provided by OSHA. OSHA''s ergonomics standard is more than 25 pages and will require multiple readings to fully comprehend. The best starting point is to read the two page summary provided in Appendix B -- it''s clear, concise and you don''t have to rely on someone else''s interpretation of the standard.
- 2. Review your MSD history to better understand the implications for your business. Beyond informing all employees of a few specific things, OSHA requirements begin with employee reports of MSD signs and symptoms. The impact of the standard on your business will depend on how often you get these reports.
- 3. Inform your management team of the implications. You will need the support of your management team to put the mechanisms in place to comply with this new standard. Begin informing them early of the new requirements and how these requirements will affect your business.
- 4. Identify the gaps in your current program and begin strategizing on how to close those gaps. The OSHA standard has very specific requirements for your ergonomics initiative, and these requirements must be met by October 2001.
- 5. Train your supervisors and technical staff on ergonomics problem solving. This is a key element of an effective ergonomics program, regardless of OSHA requirements. With the ergonomics standard, you can anticipate an increase in employee reports related to MSD signs and symptoms, so having your team prepared to resolve these issues is prudent.
For those companies that really want to take a proactive approach to dealing with the new standard, Humantech suggested a sixth step:
- 6. Perform a risk map to identify ergonomics risks, and control hazards in high risk jobs before injuries occur. Risk management is the hallmark of an effective ergonomics process. By deploying the recognition-evaluation-control approach to ergonomics, you will ensure that the new OSHA requirements have a minimal effect on your business.
by Virginia Sutcliffe