Ergonomically Correct

Article excerpt

Get ready for the laborious new worker-injury rules from OSHA

To reduce the number of employees suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (called MSDs) from strennous or repeated job functions, such as lifting heavy objects or typing, the Occpationol Safety and Health Administration has released controversial new rules governing workplace safety

According to OSHA, each year 1.8 million workers in the United States report MSDs like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and back injuries. About 600,000 of those injuries are considered serious enough to cause workers to take time off work to recover. The solution, avs OSHA, lies in ergonomics-fitting the job to the worker.

OSHA predicts 4.6 million MSDs will be prevented in the first 10 years, with average annual savings of $9.1 billion, or $27,700 savings in direct costs for each worker injury prevented. As for costs, OSHA estimates employers will pay $4.5 billion annually, and fixing individual workstations will average $250 per year. The agency also says that businesses might save almost $5 billion a year in reduced unemployment compensation expenses.

Several industry experts, however, disagree sharply with OSHA's estimates. They estimate that annual compliance for white-collar and bluecollar industries alike could total more than $100 billion a year. Some business officials worry that the rules will saddle them with injury costs caused by after-hour activities.

Nonetheless, the new ergonomic workplace rules have been passed down, and your bank must be ready to implement them. Because these rules are complex, OSHA is expected to issue additional guidance and training between now and October 2001, when banks must be in compliance.

In the meantime, here's a brief synopsis of the new OSHA standards, including what workers are covered, what information your bank must provide to employees and what actions your bank must take once a suspected MSD is reported. As a precaution, however, contact your nearest U.S. Department of Labor Office to ensure your bank is adhering to the new rules.

The ergonomics rule covers all general industry employers, including banks, and is expected to affect roughly 6.1 million employers and 102 million employees. This standard does not apply to injuries caused by slips, trips, falls, vehicle accidents or similar accidents that might occur at your bank.

Initial ReQuirements

The new OSHA standard requires that your bank provide all current and new employees with basic information about:

* Common MSDs and their signs and symptoms;

* The importance of reporting MSD signs and symptoms as soon as possible and the consequences of failing to report them early;

* How to report MSDs in the workplace;

* The kinds of risk factors, jobs and work activities associated with MSD hazards; and

* A short description of the requirements of OSHA's ergonomics program standard.

In addition, your bank must make available to employees a summary of the OSHA standard requirements, either in written form or, if all employees have electronic access, in electronic form. Employees are required to give the information to new employees within 14 days of their hire, and the information must be posted in a conspicuous place in the workplace (such as an employee bulletin board or, if all employees have electronic access, electronic posting).

No further disclosure action is needed until or unless an employee reports an MSD or persistent signs or symptoms to your bank.

Appropriate Action

Once an employee reports an MSD or persistent signs or symptoms, your bank must promptly determine whether the complaint is an MSD incident. Your bank may request the assistance of a health care professional to do this.

A report is classified as an MSD incident if the MSD is work-related and requires time off from work, restricts work or requires medical treatment beyond first aid. …