Five trade groups representing U.S. residential and commercial builders filed an appeal on Nov. 9 of an ergonomics measure adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), according to a report on Bloomberg.com. There is no penalty if employers ignore the standards, designed to protect workers from heavy lifting and other repetitive-motion injuries.
“It strains credulity to assert that a voluntary consensus standard exists in the face of opposition by the construction industry employers,” the appeal said. Some issues “are so contentious they do not lend themselves to the development of consensus standards.”
The five trade groups will “do whatever they can to stop an ergonomics standard,” said Frank Burg, a safety consultant who worked on the voluntary rule. “We reached out to these people and put 90 percent of what they wanted in the standard.”
The American Society of Safety Engineers oversaw the process that led to the institute's adoption of the rule on June 4. The appeal will be decided in February.
The construction industry, the report said, fears that OSHA might use ANSI’s voluntary rule as a basis for citing employers for infractions under its general safety regulations, or as a model for a future rule.
Strains and sprains account for 35 percent of the work days lost in construction, said Laura Welch, medical director for the Center for Construction Research and Training of Silver Spring, Md., which is affiliated with trade unions. Three-quarters of the incidents are due to overexertion.
According to Labor Department data, there were 52,880 cases of strains and sprains among the nation's 11 million construction workers last year. This is a decline from 57,310 reports in 2004.
ANSI’s construction standard offers tools to employers to evaluate and fix workplace hazards. It suggests bringing work to waist height so employees won't have to bend over; using lighter packages of building materials like cement; and providing rest breaks and job rotation for repetitive tasks.
The industry appeal asks for “immediate withdrawal of the standard,” claiming the 74-member committee was dominated by pro-ergonomic forces that didn't represent a true consensus.