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Archive for the ‘Regulation’ Category


Well….the cat is out of the bag.  All this time, American business has been worried about a new attempt by OSHA to create an Ergonomic specific regulation.  Business organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and others were lining up resources for another fight.  Well folks….it looks like the ‘war’ was won without a single shot.   Hidden in plain sight, is all the regulatory muscle OSHA needs; the general duty clause.

WHAT?  Yes it’s true. During an April 7th web chat, Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab stressed that OSHA’s enforcement of ergonomic issues is a key strategic component, and will increase, noting that the general duty clause will be used to cite ergonomic violations.   THE GENERAL DUTY CLAUSE.  It’s not sexy or flashy….but this approach and regulation has teeth.  

The General Duty Clause of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (Federal OSHA) states:

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)1: Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)2: Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(b): Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Couple the above general duty clause with the new column in the OSHA 300 log capturing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the workplace, and you can begin to see why an Ergonomic specific regulation might not be necessary!

Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels commented that,

OSHA’s field staff will be looking for ergonomic hazards in their inspections and we will be providing them with the support and back-up they need to enforce under the general duty clause. In addition, we will be examining employer logs to see if MSDs are accurately reported,” illustrating the increased emphasis on recordkeeping logs, during OSHA inspections. Michaels stated that OSHA plans to “take a hard look” at employer policies that discourage injury reporting.

You have to give OSHA leadership their ‘props’…the approach is an intelligent, common-sense approach.  No big expensive fight.  Apply the regs that are there….end of story.  

What are your thoughts on OSHA’s new tact????  Agree or disagree??

If you’d like to discuss, feel free to email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401.527.7047.

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OSHA’s plan to expand workplace injury reporting has rattled quite a few cages.  The prospect of adding a column (yes, a column) to the existing OSHA 300 log has business up in arms.   The enhanced report would isolate  musculoskeletal disorders (or MSD) injuries.  

NOTE – The term MSD is used to describe a category of Ergonomic-related injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system; there is no single diagnosis for MSDs. It is believed that OSHA’s intent with this expansion in reporting is to determine whether there is a pattern of ergonomic-related injuries in certain jobs or work tasks.

Could reporting lead to regulation?   Maybe.  Regulation would be a stretch right now; Democratic leadership is playing rope-a-dope on so many fronts – healthcare reform to name one – we can’t imagine the Labor Department is anxious to ‘rile up’ business with the introduction of Ergonomic regulation.

Reporting….regulation…WHATEVER.   Our ERGOLAB team’s mission is to build a sound business case as to why Ergonomics MUST be a central element in every business’ Safety & Health strategy.  Ergonomics should not be a business ‘like to have’; Ergonomics should be a ‘must have’ because it makes good  business sense.   Shift the discussion from Reporting or Regulation to the RISK of doing nothing AND the Return-on-Investment or ROI of a proactive strategy.

At a client meeting yesterday, our ERGOLAB team was presenting findings from a facility-wide Pain & Discomfort survey.  This type of survey is a great starting point for any company looking to baseline their current ‘RISK’ related to Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs. Employees are asked to rate, from 1 to 5 (low to high) their level of pain &/or discomfort across 38 areas of the body. In addition, they are also asked to identify what work tasks or activities trigger or amplify their pain.  Our deliverables; a map of the quantity and severity of employee pain &/discomfort and insights into the tasks that may be the cause of or contributing to employee injury. This details the existing RISK of pain symptoms across the employee community; Ergonomic and Human Factors research (and common sense) tells us that if no change is made to the current work environment, employee pain will continue to escalate and injury is very possible. 

Following is a view of the RISK progression of ‘unaddressed’ employee pain and discomfort over time.   Get proactive with your company’s approach to Ergonomics; focus your energies on the ROI of Ergonomics.

As always, we are here to help!  Contact us at the ERGOLAB with any questions, or if you’d like to discuss scheduling a Pain and Discomfort survey at your facility. Email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or call 401 – 527 – 7047.

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Very quietly and with no fanfare or hoopla, OSHA enabled a new database search capability that permits you & I to see a high level view of the workplace accident and injury data of any US-based business.  The story was lost in the buzz about Apples’s new iPad, The State of the Union Address, and Super Bowl hype.   

Here is the link to the new database:  http://bit.ly/ERGOLABOSHA

Our ERGOLAB team was thrilled to see this information made public; our Ergonomic practice (www.ErgonomicEdge.com), is part of an Environmental Health & Safety firm (www.PisanoAssociates.com). Injury and accident results are the fundamental metrics we use to gauge Health & Safety program success.   These numbers are our report card.

So…you’re probably thinking, this data has been collected for years and search technology is nothing new. Why is OSHA making this data available and visible?  Why now?

1.0    (They promised) or  TRANSPARENCY is Good Politics

Throughout the presidential  primaries and general election, the Obama team positioned themselves as Washington outsiders, intent on driving CHANGE . No more business as usual.  The word transparency made its way into every stump speech. The promise, no more meetings behind closed doors, no more cloak and dagger.  The American public has the right to know what it’s government is doing; the Obama Presidency would be different.  

From the moment Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took over, OSHA has moved aggressively towards transparency;

“Making injury and illness information available to the public is part of OSHA’s response to the administration’s commitment to make government more transparent to the American people,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

  Politics or not, OSHA’s move is a good one.

2.0      ACCELERATE BUSINESS ACCOUNTABILITY

“You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” (quote source unknown)

A fundamental principle in the military, where a dropped assignment can translate into lost lives. Behavior is the function of its consequences.

In the regulatory world, the Environmental Protection Agency is high trump. When the EPA is mentioned to a business owner or executive, the response is action and urgency. Why?  The EPA’s inspection and enforcement arm is swift and punitive. Companies operating outside of regulatory compliance will pay dearly for that state. EPA non-compliance is a game changer, and businesses know it. The EPA gets what they inspect.

OSHA is taken less seriously; companies all across the country ‘whistle past the graveyard’ specific to workplace Safety & Health regulations.  OSHA’s inspection arm has historically been under-staffed and reactive.  The new administration has added inspectors and is working towards a proactive model, however that change will take time. 

So…why did OSHA give you searchable access to this data?

You have been deputized. OSHA has just deputized millions of citizen inspectors all across the country.  You can become the eyes and ears of OSHA.  What’s the first thing you’ll do?  Check out the track record of your employer, your spouses’ employer, the record of the company down the street.  

OSHA wants YOU to inspect for them, extend their reach. 

3.0      THE POWER OF PUBLIC PRESSURE

In the world of public pressure and scrutiny, there will be winners and there will be losers.

Company A and Company B both manufacture windshields and are located in the same small town. 

Company A has embraced workplace Health & Safety as a driving principle of their company. Company A employs Health & Safety professionals; program management is proactive and audited regularly. Company A employees participate in periodic training sessions, Safety is a part of their job responsibilities, they are bonused upon their contributions to a ‘Safer’ workplace. No surprise, Company A has a spotless accident and injury record.  The entire company takes pride in this performance.

Company B takes a more lax approach to Health & Safety. Program ownership resides in many different places in the business; no professional Health & Safety staff works at Company B. Company B’s employees don’t participate in regular Safety & Health training, the only communication they get are a few posters on the team room wall.   Company B addresses issues after there is a problem, their accident and injury record is very poor. 

SCENARIO

You are looking for a job – both companies have offered you a position.  Which offer will you accept? 

After researching the company, searching their accident and injury history, you select Company A.   Why?   Employees want to work for a company that values their health and well-being. 

SCENARIO

A corporate buyer, you are looking for a new supplier of windshields.  Which company will become your new supplier?

The buyer will also select Company A.  In business, the old axiom, ‘You are the company you keep’ applies.  A company’s supply chain is sacrosanct; Company B’s practices would reflect negatively on the corporate buyer’s organization. Why take that risk? 

Company’s in good standing will be rewarded for their work; companies with poor track records will lose employees and lose contracts.  OSHA is relying on public scrutiny and action to drive change.  OSHA won’t need thousands of new inspectors; they’ll let the market drive change.

We’d love to get your point-of-view on OSHA’s new approach. Drop us a line. 

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I was in a meeting with a new client last week.  “Linda” (not her real name), is the Director of Environmental Health & Safety for a growing biotech firm.   Our firm has been brought in to address a growing number of Repetitive Strain Injuries in the company’s lab facilities.  “Linda” shared her frustrations with the company’s past approach to Repetitive Motion injuries;

“We wait until something bad happens, until it’s too late to avoid injury and the costs associated with the injury. We practice Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics.  When an employee complains of pain…WHACK…only then can I get them support.   Another issue in a different part of the company, WHACK…again, band-aid the issue with a product or even bring in an Ergonomist to take a closer look at that employees issues.  We spend all our time WHACKING and reacting; we need to get ahead of the issues.” 

Linda’s Whack-a-Mole analogy describes the reality in most companies; expertise and instruction is brought in after pain &/or injury.  When the average direct cost of a Musculoskeletal injury is $25,000 (that excludes indirect costs that average 4 x that number based on OSHA data) – the cost of Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics can add up quickly.  A significant part of our Ergonomic practice is working with client’s to build a PROACTIVE Ergonomics program within their company.  Following is an Action Plan you can use today, to take control of Ergonomic issues in your company, and leave the Whack-a-Mole approach behind.  For a deeper discussion on how to implement this program you can email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.

Proactive Approach to ERGONOMICS:

Action 1.0

Build a business case on the value of the PROACTIVE approach to Ergonomics.  Leverage the resources that are available from OSHA, NIOSH, National Bureau of Labor & Statistics and academia – Cornell, UCLA and others.  Using your company’s historical OSHA recordable data; build an air-tight case for why the proactive approach is better business. Focus on the bottom line impact.

Action 2.0

With your business case in hand – pitch Executive leadership and secure commitment to a long-term Ergonomic program.

Action 3.0

Ensure Ergonomics is integrated into your fiscal planning cycle; the program must be integrated into your Environmental Health & Safety strategy. The EHS community may also need to be sold on the approach; share your business case. 

Action 4.0

Identify Ergonomic consulting resource for support of activity (in most cases companies do not have resident expertise).  Potential partner should have deep experience in task assessment and redesign across all company environments (Manufacturing, Material Handling, Warehousing, Office, Laboratory, Field etc). In addition, review firm’s methodology, ensure actions measurable (as you will be asked to demonstrate program value at some point – be ready for this – put onus on consultant/partner). Talk with current and past clients. 

Action 5.0 – Getting Started

5.1 – Build a Communication Plan around the launch and ongoing merchandising of your Ergonomic program. Included in this plan – Introduction to Ergonomics training for all employees (baseline understanding and value of Ergonomics), Company Champions Program – identify internal Ergonomic program Champions by functional area.

5.2 – Launch program with company-wide Pain & Discomfort Survey. It’s purpose – isolate work environments, tasks and employee categories with injury markers. Outcome – map out high/medium/low risk tasks – permits company to prioritize and align investments

5.3 – Isolate high risk tasks for assessment & redesign – launch Ergonomics work…

Building support and positive momentum is central to getting in front of Ergonomic issues.  If you have any questions, we’re here to help!

Some valuable links to assist you in building your Ergonomics business case:

Puget Sound Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Chapter Cost Benefit Analysis Calculator  – http://bit.ly/PugetHFESCalc

Cornell Ergonomics ROI Calculator – http://bit.ly/CornellROI

OSHA eTools – Computer Workstations – http://bit.ly/OSHAeTools

NIOSH – http://bit.ly/NIOSHErgo

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Muscle and Joint Pain Costs European Economies Billions in Time and Money

“A new study finds that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for nearly half (49 percent) of all absences from work and 60 percent of permanent work incapacity in the European Union. These and other socio-economic consequences of suffering from poor health due to muscle and joint pain represent an estimated cost to society in Europe of up to €240 billion.”

Interesting. The EU is capable of pulling off a deep dive across multiple countries and employment cultures and we in the US, continue to resist getting real visibility to the societal costs and impacts of MSD’s (Musculoskeletal Disorders) or Repetitive Strain Injuries. 

Take a look.  EHS Managers, use this data to build your case for an aggressive Ergonomics program in 2010.  We can help!

Muscle and Joint Pain Costs European Economies Billions in Time and Money.

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Remember that scene in Poltergeist? The TV goes all fuzzy and the little blond girl, Carol Anne gets that blanked out expression on her face and announces They’re Here…!!”   I can imagine US employers are feeling that same eerie, creepy feeling right now about OSHA’s  new movement into the Ergonomic space. 

This type of employer concern and pushback should be expected (check out article link from Business Insurance) – business sees  OSHA’s push for increased reporting of MSD’s (Musculoskeletal Disorders) in the workplace as a very SLIPPERY SLOPE.   First reporting, then perhaps…..REGULATION?   The R Word.  

Take a deep breath.  This is only about data collection right now…and to bottom line it, this data is necessary. Cumulative trauma disorders / MSD’s have been unreported and under-reported by American business for years.  Visibility to the aggregate impacts and costs of this injury category will open some eyes; MSD injuries drives down America’s productivity and drives up healthcare costs. 

Business fears that increased MSD scrutiny will add an additional  layer of cost is understandable but unfounded.  Proactive, ergonomic interventions reduce injury and lower costs.  ERGONOMICS will reduce their costs.  Get it out in the open, document what is there and deal with it. 

Face it….They’re HERE. 

Employers wary of changes in approach, focus at OSHA | Business Insurance.

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