Ergonomics: What's Next for the State of Washington?

By Smith, Sandy | Occupational Hazards, February 2004 | Go to article overview

Ergonomics: What's Next for the State of Washington?


Smith, Sandy, Occupational Hazards


Big bucks were spent to repeal Washington's ergonomics standard. Will workers and employers end up paying a high price in terms of injuries and costs?

**********

The price tag of the campaign was steep--estimated at $1.5 million--but worth it, said supporters. In the weeks before the November 2003 election, television ads and yard signs urged passage of Initiative 841 to repeal Washington's ergonomics standard, scheduled for enforcement in 2005.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The opposition to Initiative 841--mostly labor unions and the state government--was outspent 3 to 1. In fact, state officials are prohibited by law from engaging in a political campaign, so employees of Washington's Department of Labor and Industries (L & I) could not speak out for the ergonomic standard or against Initiative 841 in an official capacity.

Despite low voter turnout, or perhaps because of it, Initiative 841 passed. Mike Wynn, CPE, a vice president at Humantech, a workplace ergonomics consulting firm that does business in Washington, says he was surprised. "The protections for individuals are such that I thought workers would support it."

David Groves, spokesperson for the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, agrees, noting, "The standard contained a lot of concessions to business; survived three years of legislative attempts to repeal, delay and eviscerate it; and survived a court challenge. It is counterintuitive for voters--workers--to repeal a workplace safety rule, so we thought [Initiative 841] faced an uphill battle. Obviously, we were wrong."

Ultimately, says Groves, voters believed ads claiming the standard was a "job-killer." Wynn thinks even employers who support the idea of good ergonomics were scared off by the amount of documentation required of them by the standard. "Let's face it. If there was an OSHA program for quality control, with all the paperwork and recordkeeping OSHA requires, would employers have time to improve quality?" Wynn asks.

Was the Standard Too Tough?

Washington's ergonomics rule focused on preventing injuries. Employers with "caution zone jobs," where an employee's typical work included one or more of several risk factors--awkward postures, high hand force, frequent lifting, highly repetitive motion, repeated impact and moderate to high vibration--were covered under the standard. Employees could perform jobs with identified risk factors for four hours a day total, and employers were required to reduce hazards to a degree that was "technically and economically feasible."

Erin Shannon, public relations director of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), reveals, "Businesses didn't trust L & I to administer the regulation. Who determines what is 'technically and economically feasible?' L & I, or the employer?" Plus, referring to the general duty clause, she adds, "Worker safety laws already allow the state to ding employers for ergonomic violations in the workplace."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Business owners told BIAW, which helped fund the repeal effort, that they were worried about the impact the standard would have on their costs, says Shannon. The state estimated the cost of compliance for employers at $80 million per year. Opponents' cost estimates ranged from over $300 million to more than $700 million.

Employers with workers performing caution zone jobs were threatening to hire part-time work forces if the standard was enforced. Which in turn meant no employer-paid health benefits for employees. "Employers told us the only way to be certain they were complying with the standard was to take workers off the job after four hours," Shannon reveals.

If employers adopted that plan of action, then employees suffered twice: fewer work hours and no benefits. Worse yet, some employers threatened to leave the state entirely.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A slaughterhouse visited by L & I was told it could be cited in the future under the then-pending ergonomics standard if changes weren't made to employee job tasks and work organization. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ergonomics: What's Next for the State of Washington?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.