OSHA's 15-member National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics met for the first time on January 22, receiving its marching orders from agency chief John Henshaw.

OSHA's boss gave the group clear boundaries for action. Standards-setting, enforcement policy and research are out. "A regulatory approach to addressing ergonomics is not on OSHA's agenda, so that should not be part of the committee's discussions," said Henshaw. "Enforcement is based upon developed law and case law and is beyond the scope of this committee." The advisory committee is also not expected to conduct research, he said.

The committee can help OSHA in three areas: guidelines, outreach and research, according to Henshaw.

  • "For guidelines . . . we want you to help us wrestle with a variety of questions: What industries and organizations have created effective ergonomics guidelines? Are there success stories that prove these guidelines make a difference? When OSHA develops guidelines, whom should we try to reach? Safety and health professionals? Small business owners? Others? How can we more effectively encourage other industries or companies to develop their own guidelines," he said.

  • "For outreach . . . how can OSHA improve its efforts to disseminate information? Are we reaching the right audiences? How can we more effectively articulate and sell the business and social value of addressing ergonomic guidelines?"

  • "For research . . . where are the gaps? What needs to be done to reduce the science to practice? How does this fit in with what NIOSH is doing? What do employers need and what's missing? How can we establish the business case for addressing ergonomics?"

    "This committee is chartered for two years. We expect you will meet two to four times a year," said Henshaw.