Who’s covered?

All general industry employers must comply with the rules — 6.1 million worksites with more than 102 million workers. OSHA estimates about 60 million of these workers are employed in workplaces with no current ergo programs. The standard does not cover workplaces in construction, maritime, agriculture, and railroad industries.

What do you have to do?

You must provide all your employees basic information about:

  • Common musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and their signs and symptoms;

  • The importance of reporting MSDs, and signs and symptoms, as soon as possible;

  • How to report MSDs in the workplace;

  • Risk factors, job and work activities related to MSD hazards;

  • A brief description of OSHA’s ergonomics standard.

You must provide this information in written form, or if all employees have access, in electronic form. The information must be posted in a conspicuous place in your workplace.

You don’t have to take any further action until one of your employees reports an MSD or persistent signs or symptoms of an MSD.

Compliance dates

The standard goes into effect January 16, 2001. You must begin to distribute information on the standard to your employees and begin receiving and responding to reports of injuries no later than October 14, 2001. Other compliance time frames relate to requirements beyond the initial employee briefing.

What if an employee reports an MSD or signs or symptoms?

You must quickly determine if the report qualifies as an “MSD incident” — meaning the case is work-related, and requires days away from work, restricted work, or medical treatment beyond first aid; or if the signs or symptoms last for seven or more consecutive days after reporting. You can request the help of a health care professional to make this determination.

If your employee has experienced an MSD incident, you must determine if the job in question meets the standard’s “action trigger”. If your employee has not experienced a work-related MSD incident, you don’t have to take any further action.

How do you know if the employee’s job meets the action trigger?

Review the job to determine if it routinely involves exposure to one or more of five ergonomic risk factors on one or more days a week. The standard includes a “Basic Screening Tool” — a two-page checklist — that identifies these risk factors:

  • Repetition (such as repeating the same motions every few seconds for two hours at a time, or using a keyboard and/or mouse steadily for more than four hours a day;

  • Force (such as lifting more than 75 pounds at any one time);

  • Awkward postures (such as raising or working with the hands above the head for more than two hours a day);

  • Contact stress (such as using the hand or knee as a hammer more than ten times an hour for more than two hours total per day);

  • Vibration (such as using chainsaws for more than 30 minutes per day, or grinders for more than two hours per day).

If the job does not meet the action trigger, you don’t need to take further steps.

What if the job meets the action trigger?

You can use a “quick fix” option instead of implementing a complete ergonomics program for problems that can be resolved in 90 days — if the problems are in a job where only one MSD has occurred, and if no more than two MSDs incidents have occurred in your entire workplace in the past 18 months. Otherwise, you need a full ergonomics program covering that job and other just like it in your workplace.

Elements of an ergonomics program

  • Management leadership and employee participation

  • Job hazard analysis and control

  • Training

  • MSD management

  • Program evaluation

  • Recordkeeping

Compliance requirements for each of these components are spelled out in the standard.

What if you have an ergonomics program already in place?

You can continue to work with your current program instead of complying with this standard, provided that:

  • Your program is written and was established before November, 14, 2000;

  • Program elements include management leadership, employee participation and job hazard analysis and control, training, and program evaluation;

  • An MSD management policy must be implemented by January 16, 2002.

Copies of the regulatory text, preamble, appendices, and fact sheets are available on OSHA’s web site at www.osha.gov.