Bowing to concerns from small businesses, OSHA has temporarily withdrawn a proposed column for work-related musculoskeletal disorders, opting instead to open “an active dialogue” with the small business community.

An OSHA press release says the agency will seek greater input on the impact of the proposal through outreach in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

"Work-related musculoskeletal disorders remain the leading cause of workplace injury and illness in this country, and this proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in workplaces," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSDs accounted for 28 percent of all reported workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work in 2009.

The proposed rule would not change existing requirements about when and under what circumstances employers must record MSDs on their injury and illness logs. While many employers are currently required to keep a record of workplace injuries and illnesses, including work-related MSDs, on the OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), the vast majority of small businesses are not required to keep such records. The proposed rulewouldrequire those employers already mandated to keep injury and illness records, and to record MSDs, to place a check mark in the new column for all MSDs.

Prior to 2001, OSHA's injury and illness logs contained a column for repetitive trauma disorders that included noise and many kinds of MSDs. In 2001, OSHA separated noise and MSDs into two columns, but the MSD column was deleted in 2003 before the provision became effective. This proposal would restore the MSD column to the Form 300.

OSHA and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy jointly plan to hold a meeting at which small businesses from around the country will be able to participate through electronic means, such as telephone and/or a Web forum. The agency says details of the meeting will be announced within 30 days.