Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (CIS) Director Kathleen Wilbur said that the repeal of federal ergonomic standards will have little impact on workers in Michigan because the state has had ergonomic safety and health efforts in place since the 1980s.
Wilbur said as a result, these ergonomic efforts have contributed to an overall decline in ergonomic injuries by 28 percent in the state.
"The state opposed the federal OSHA ergonomics standards, since it was unnecessary and counterproductive to successful voluntary efforts by the private sector," said Wilbur.
The CIS Bureau of Safety Regulation administers the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA).
"We recognized a long time ago that Michigan businesses are seeking more solutions for ergonomic safety concerns, not more bureaucratic red tape from the federal government," said Wilbur. "As a result, MIOSHA has been aggressively addressing this worker safety issue since the 1980s, when the standing MIOSHA Ergonomics Committee was created and innovative ways to work with employers were developed to address ergonomic safety issues through training, recognition awards and grants."
Wilbur said statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, suggest that cooperative effort by the state of Michigan and private industry are working, without the presence of a federal ergonomics standard.
"The most recent statistics available indicate that ergonomic injuries in Michigan were reduced by 28 percent from 1992 to 1998, at a time when private industry employment increased by 14 percent," noted Wilbur. "I attribute this success to efforts by the state, job providers, workers and nonprofit groups which have worked collaboratively on ergonomic safety concerns."
During that same period (1992 to 1998), the estimated number of injuries in Michigan was:
- Down 10.9 percent for carpal tunnel syndrome injuries;
- Down 19.7 percent for repetitive motion injuries;
- Down 30.3 percent for injuries due to overexertion; and
- Down 42.5 percent for tendinitis.
Wilbur said CIS has been addressing ergonomic issues on the state level by providing :
- MIOSHA education and training staff for one-on-one work site assistance in resolving repetitive motion injuries.
- Seminars to educate job providers and workers about ergonomic safety issues.
- Recognition awards to businesses and their employees for implementing safety measures and reducing ergonomic injuries.
- A grant program to encourage nonprofit groups to compete for funding by submitting education and training programs aimed at significant occupational safety and health issues.
- Overexertion and repetitive motion injuries as one of MIOSHA''s Strategic Plan goals, to be reduced by 15 percent over five years.
"The intent of the federal standards was aimed at reducing the risk of ergonomic injuries," said Wilbur. "However, we found that the process of developing these rule was contentious and divisive at a time when constructive cooperation between job providers and government was needed to protect workers successfully."
by Virginia Sutcliffe