At a Congressional hearing yesterday, a representative of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) said the single incident trigger and its interference with established state workers compensation systems are just some of the components included in OSHA's proposed ergonomics standard that are a major concern.
"We believe there needs to be an ergonomic standard," John Cheffer, chair of ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee testified at the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform and Paperwork Reduction hearing on OSHA's proposed ergonomics standard and its impact on small business. "However, ASSE is concerned that the flaws in the proposed rule and its complexity with respect to small business entity compliance may result in the rejection of the entire standard."
Not only did Cheffer express a need for an ergonomic standard, but outlined several major concerns that must be addressed before moving forward with the OSHA proposal.
Sparked by the possibility that the current negative debates being waged countrywide on this issue could result in a total rejection of the standard, he noted that ASSE provided OSHA with a counter proposal, which offers a more reasonable and user friendly approach to control of workplace musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic exposures than the current proposal.
"With respect to small business issues, a key question involves the cost and complexity of performing an ergonomic analysis," Cheffer testified. "OSHA has provided insufficient information to enable the small business owner or operator to understand the ergonomics issue and proposed standard, or to determine what actions must be taken in order to identify and correct ergonomic hazards. ASSE is at a loss to see how a small business employers without specialized training will be able to use the standard to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs)."
The proposed OSHA standard would require employers in manual handling and manufacturing operations to implement ergonomics programs in their workplaces.
However, the provisions of the standard could be triggered in any workplace (agriculture, maritime operation and construction industries are not included in the proposed rule) so long as one musculoskeletal disorder is reported.
"Many of ASSE's members, who work for all types of industries, have developed and implemented cutting edge ergonomic safety programs that have led to significant decreases in the number of workplace MSDs," said Cheffer.
ASSE is urging OSHA to develop a more reasonable standard which enhances occupational safety and health and leaves the issue of payment for rehabilitation, social issues and workers' compensation reengineering to the existing federal and state laws and regulations governing these areas.
"We have concerns about the apparent social engineering agenda contained in the current OSHA proposal which overshadows the prevention aspects of the standard," said Cheffer.
ASSE is also urging OSHA to promulgate this as a safety standard, not as a health standard as they are proposing to do and believe that ergonomic injuries should not be treated in a different manner than other workplace injuries.
"Most ergonomic problems cannot be corrected through low-tech solutions such as having an employee stand on a box, or propping up a computer monitor with a phonebook as OSHA has suggested," Cheffer testified.