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OSHA's ergo rule coming soon?

OSHA’s final ergonomics rule could be issued as soon as the week of November 13, according to Washington sources.

Earlier this month, Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) sent a letter to OSHA chief Charles Jeffress asking the agency to delay the standard. “I understand that OSHA intends to issue its final ergonomics program standard by November 17,” Enzi wrote. “I am writing to express my disappointment and dismay that you have continued to rush this rulemaking process.”

An Enzi spokesman says the November 17 date has been “floating around” Washington for weeks. Other sources contacted by ISHN expect the blockbuster rule to be issued sometime before the end of November. An OSHA spokeswoman would only say, “The agency stands by its promise to issue the standard before the end of the year.”

A draft of OSHA’s final requirements, dated October 10, is also making the rounds in Washington — and drawing the ire of business groups that claim it is tougher than the ergo proposal issued in November, 1999.

The biggest change: When an employee reports signs or symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), OSHA has now established detailed specifications to determine if the employee’s job has risk factors that would trigger a series of compliance steps. Risk factors include:

  • Performing the same motions every few seconds, or repeating a cycle of motions more than two times per minute for more than two consecutive hours in a workday;

  • Using a keyboard and/or mouse pad in a steady manner for more than four hours total in a workday;

  • Lifting more than 75 pounds at any one time, or more than 55 pounds more than ten times per day;

  • Kneeling or squatting for more than two hours total per day;

  • Using a hand or knee as a hammer more than ten times per hour for more than two hours total per day; and

  • Using tools — such as chainsaws or jackhammers — with high vibration levels for more than 30 minutes a day.

If a job exceeds these action levels (or others not listed here), employers must take the next step and determine if a MSD hazard exists by talking to employees performing that job, and observing the frequency, duration, and magnitude of exposure to risk factors using checklists supplied by OSHA. Potential hazards can also be analyzed by consultants from OSHA-funded state programs or professionals trained in ergonomics.

Any hazards identified must be controlled, reduced to levels specified in the standard, or reduced to the extent feasible.

The standard also contains requirements for training, management leadership, employee involvement, medical care, work removal compensation, recordkeeping, program evaluation, and demonstrating program effectiveness.

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