Magazine article Occupational Hazards

What Ergonomists Think of OSHA's Rule

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

What Ergonomists Think of OSHA's Rule

Article excerpt

The OSHA rule may not be perfect, ergonomics experts concede, but it does provide a stimulus to companies to examine this important issue.

If the OSHA ergonomics standard represents a full-employment act for ergonomists, they are showing remarkable restraint in their public pronouncements on the new rule. Perhaps that is because, as one noted ergonomist told me, "the OSHA ergonomics standard and everything related to it are highly charged and controversial politically."

Not unexpectedly, ergonomists were reporting more activity from existing and new customers. "I have some more calls from companies I haven't worked with in the past, and then the existing companies I have been working with have had ergonomics programs for a while and they actually are in pretty good shape," said David Ridyard, president of Applied Ergonomics Technology in Jenkintown, Pa.

While companies addressing ergonomics may not have had complete written programs, Ridyard observed, they were doing job hazard assessments, training employees and implementing controls. Those companies are now doing a gap analysis and reporting compliance needs to their senior management. "It's a chance for them to grab some more resources, some time and some dollars, and do a lot of things they have wanted to do."

Ridyard warns that companies that have sat on the sidelines with regard to ergonomics face a formidable challenge. "For the companies that have not been working with ergonomics so far, this is a major, major undertaking. Don't let OSHA fool you. This is not a three-day program and you're done for the year." He noted, for example, doing job hazard assessments is time-consuming, as is conducting training and familiarizing yourself with the technology for hazard prevention and control.

Assessing the OSHA standard as a whole, Ridyard said, various elements such as management commitment, employee involvement, job hazard analysis, hazard prevention and control, and recordkeeping offers "a model that works, If you do everything in the standard, you definitely will have benefits."

Ridyard criticized the quick-fix provision in the standard as "cumbersome," requiring employers to do too many things. He also was critical of the standard's work restriction protection provision, citing its conflicts with the existing workers' compensation system.

Joy Ebben, Ph.D., an ergonomics consultant based in Tomahawk, Wis. …

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