Trying to play peacemaker, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on July 16th opened the first of three public forums exploring ways to reduce ergonomics injuries by saying, "We can play politics or we can protect workers. The only way we will succeed "is if we begin with an open mind."

Saying "there's no education in the second kick of a mule," Chao cautioned against pursuing another expansive standard similar to the one rejected earlier this year by Congress.

The AFL-CIO is holding rallies at each meeting site protesting what it calls "the Sham DOL Forums" that it claims are stacked in favor of big business. The unions' message: Issue a new ergo safety standard now.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association called for a new standard during its testimony at the first forum in Arlington, Va. AIHA urges that:

  • Credit be given to those organizations with pre-existing programs that effectively address work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

  • MSDs should not be used as the sole trigger for implementation of a standard.

  • Incidence rates should not be used as a trigger for inspections.

The American Society of Safety Engineers recommended that if an ergonomic standard is developed it should:

  • Be performance based and not use a one-size-fits-all approach to ergonomics.

  • Require an ergonomic evaluation and be performed by a person competent in ergonomic-related issues.

  • Have a trigger mechanism that does not allow an incident to take place before eliminating hazards.

  • Place emphasis on improvement versus overly detailed specifications.

  • Use private/public sector partnerships, such as the negotiated rulemaking process, or the multiple stakeholders input process used for metalworking fluids or the proposed silica rulemaking.