Magazine article Editor & Publisher

We Work, Ergo(nomics) We Are

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

We Work, Ergo(nomics) We Are

Article excerpt

OSHA rules hit the books Tuesday

As the ergonomics maven for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), Donald Hensel is a busy guy, traveling to different newspapers to lend advice on how to load bundles, stuff inserts, or type stories with the fewest injuries possible.

Hensel thinks demand for his talents will only grow. The reason: federal rules that enter the books on Tuesday will require all private employers -- including newspapers -- to follow a potentially complex and costly regimen to avoid workplace injuries from repeated stress.

Employers are not required to comply with the new ergonomics standard until Oct. 15. In the meantime, opponents will be asking courts, Congress, and the executive branch itself to void the rules. But those efforts may fail, and newspapers, like other employers, are preparing to live with the new rules.

"We're going to have to gear up immediately," said Hensel, manager for environmental and safety services at the NAA, which represents more than 2,000 newspapers. NAA members "are going to rely on us for fill- in-the-blank ergonomics programs" that comply with the new requirements, Hensel said.

The rules, in the making for nearly a decade, rank among the most far- reaching in a blizzard of late-term regulations issued by the outgoing administration of President Clinton. The U.S. Labor Department estimates that complying with the rules will cost employers $4.5 billion annually, while bringing $9.1 billion yearly in health-care savings and other benefits.

The rules are meant to forestall the lower-back and repetitive-stress injuries that together account for about a third of all workplace injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which issued the rules, said they will prevent about 4.6 million injuries over 10 years.

Organized labor applauded OSHA's move, and pledges a battle to preserve the rules. …

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