It's hard to keep up with who's doing what ergonomically. Standards are in various stages of development at the federal and state level, and within voluntary standards organizations. Here's a rundown of activity you should be aware of: American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Committee Z-365 on Control of Work-Related Cumulative Trauma Disorders Part 1: Upper Extremities This committee has been working on a standard to control work-related CTDs of upper extremities for more than five years. The fourth draft is 19 pages-down from the original version of 250 plus; however, much of the original material has been transferred to appendices. A fifth draft, not as complex as previous versions, was completed in December, 1996, and the committee was scheduled to vote to approve it in June.

Z-365 is intended for use by persons who have responsibility for the management of medical, health and safety programs, the selection or operation of equipment, and the design of jobs, work environments, or work procedures. It addresses management responsibilities, training for managers and employees, surveillance, job analysis and design, and program implementation.

American National Standards Institute/ Human Factors and Ergonomics Society ANSI/HFES 100 - American National Standard for Human Factors Engineering of Computer Workstations

The only active ergonomics standard in the U.S., ANSI/HFES 100-1988 sets design parameters for VDT workstations. The committee has been working on a revision for about four years. This is a technical standard that sets specifications for the human factors engineering design and configuration principles of computer workstations. It covers technical specs for input devices, visual displays, furniture, working environment, and systems integration.

American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM) Committee E-34 on Occupational Health and Safety

The committee has a draft guideline which can be applied to any work process. It doesn't duplicate works in progress such as ANSI's standard or OSHA's existing meatpacking guidelines. ASTM is focusing on specific human factors and ergonomic materials that will be helpful to those who design, modify, or manage the work process.

California In 1993, the California legislature passed a bill requiring that, by Jan. 1, 1995, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board had to implement an ergonomics standard designed to prevent repetitive motion injuries. Easier said than done, however, as there was almost no agreement on the elements of the board's first try, and the deadline passed without an ergonomics standard.

The California Labor Federation and injured workers filed suit to force promulgation of a rule, and ultimately the board was ordered to adopt a standard by December, 1996, which it did. But the Office of Administrative Law, which ensures that proposed laws comply with existing standards for regulations, returned the standard citing its lack of clarity.

Elements of the proposal, which focuses on worksites where repetitive motion injury problems already exist, mandate that employers implement an ergonomics program covering worksite evaluation, control of exposures to situations causing RMIs, and employee training.

On April 22 of this year, the board resubmitted its revised ergonomics proposal to the OAL. The proposal this time was approved. The final two-page standard, slated to go into effect July 3, applies to employment situations where two or more workers have been diagnosed with repetitive strain injuries from the same job in the same 12-month period.

Organized labor complains that the standard is not stringent enough and does not instruct employers on preventing ergonomic injuries. The AFL-CIO has promised to argue for a tougher regulation in court. On the side of industry, the American Trucking Associations have also promised to file a brief against the new standard by June 17. The ATA argues that the standard will cost California employers millions of dollars without guaranteeing injury prevention. The Sacramento Superior Court will hear both sides' arguments at a September 5 hearing. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Since March, 1995, when OSHA published a 600-page draft proposal, the issue of a federal ergonomics standard has been fraught with controversy.

OSHA has now embarked on a four-pronged approach to ergonomic issues covering enforcement, rulemaking, education, and research to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries. It is rebuilding its team of ergo experts and plans to solicit ergonomics information from stakeholders. Nancy Adams, a 20-year agency veteran has recently been named to head up the team as ergonomics coordinator.

OSHA issued no ergonomics-related enforcement citations during the government's fiscal year of 1996; however, an ergonomics enforcement steering committee has been formed to identify cases that could withstand legal scrutiny on appeal. OSHA would like its inspectors to make ergonomics part of every routine inspection and target employers with widespread CTD problems for high-visibility enforcement. Until there is a mandatory standard, OSHA plans to continue to investigate ergonomic hazards and cite employers under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act. OSHA uses 5(a)(1), also referred to as the "general duty clause," as the basis for enforcement authority when issuing citations for hazards not covered by an existing safety or health standard.