In testimony presented Monday at the Department of Labor's ergonomics hearings at George Mason University, Pat Cleary of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) congratulated OSHA for "finally asking the right questions."
Cleary said the best ergonomics approach is one based on "more scientific research, more emphasis on best practices and more clarity regarding what is work-related and what isn't."
"The simple facts are that the science of ergonomics is unclear and conflicting, the exact causes of repetitive stress disorders are difficult to determine, and there is no solid evidence of what works and what doesn't," said Cleary, senior vice president, human resources policy and external affairs. "Clearly, we need to follow the National Academy of Sciences' recommendation to conduct further study on ergonomics so that we can more clearly define and understand these disorders before even considering a new regulation, which may not turn out to be the most effective way to deal with this issue."
Additionally, Cleary urged OSHA to create a clearinghouse of best practices on ergonomics.
"The best move OSHA could make would be toward an approach that encourages the sharing and utilization of best practices, and the provision of scientifically based evidence of how to reduce repetitive stress disorders," said Cleary.
Cleary noted that, in the absence of a regulation, ergonomics injuries have steadily declined for 10 years, and decreased by more than 34 percent over the past three years.
Cleary also said that employers already are voluntarily collaborating with their employees to implement innovative programs to address repetitive stress injury complaints, with positive results.
"The most important thing is not to make the same mistake twice. Let's not rush to develop a new ergonomics regulation that makes employers responsible for injuries caused outside the workplace and is just as flawed and ineffective as the one Congress wisely repealed," Cleary concluded.
Edited by Virginia Sutcliffe