How Do I Know if I'm Grandfathered?

An OSHA ergonomist talks about how companies can determine if they qualify for the grandfather provision of the final ergonomics rule.

OSHA''s Garry Orr is an ergonomist who provided much of the technical expertise in the development of the agency''s ergonomic standard.

Although some of Washington''s highest paid lawyers would like to eat him for lunch, in an interview with Occupational Hazards, Orr was ebullient about the benefits of ergonomics.

"I''m going to fit the job to the worker," said Orr. "I don''t know how you can go wrong with this!"

Orr believes 80 to 90 percent of companies with existing ergonomics programs will qualify for the grandfather provision of the final rule.

But he said there is no formal process for a company to determine if its program meets OSHA''s requirements.

"It''s really up to the employer to make a judgment," said Orr.

For most employers he recommends going through a two-step analysis:

Do you have an effective program? Are you reducing MSDs in numbers and severity?

Do you have an effective process? To qualify for grandfather protection, the standard requires management leadership, employee participation, job hazard analysis, training, program evaluation and (by Jan. 16, 2002) worker restriction protection.

Orr emphasized the importance of worker participation in ergonomics programs, and asserted it is something OSHA will be looking for.

He also pointed out that in a dispute, the burden of proof would be on OSHA to prove an employer does not have an effective program.

"If an employer can show an effective process and good numbers, you aren''t going to be held to every provision of the standard," said Orr.

Employers can always call OSHA for help in determining whether or not they qualify. But there is a catch.

"We''ll be more than glad to help you out," commented Orr. "But if we find a violation, you''re going to have to fix it."

by James Nash

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