Federal safety agency creates plan to reduce, prevent ergonomic injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has unveiled a plan to reduce ergonomic injuries through a combination of industry-targeted guidelines, enforcement measures, workplace outreach, advanced research, and efforts to protect immigrant workers.

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw said his agency will immediately begin work on developing industry and task-specific guidelines to reduce and prevent ergonomic injuries, often called musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), that occur in the workplace. The agency expects to begin releasing guidelines ready for application in selected industries this year. OSHA will also encourage other businesses and industries to develop more guidelines of their own.

This enforcement plan will crack down on bad actors by coordinating inspections with a strategy designed for successful prosecution. Emphasis will be placed on industries with serious ergonomics problems that OSHA and Department of Labor (DOL) attorneys have successfully addressed. For the first time, OSHA will have an enforcement plan designed from the start to target prosecutable ergonomic violations.

Also for the first time, inspections will be coordinated with a strategy developed by DOL attorneys based on prior successful ergonomics cases and designed for successful prosecutions. OSHA will have ergonomics inspection teams that will, from the earliest stages, work closely with DOL attorneys and experts to prosecute successfully.

The plan also calls for compliance assistance tools to help workplaces reduce and prevent ergonomic injuries. OSHA will provide specialized training and information on guidelines and implementation of ergonomics programs. It will also administer targeted training grants, develop compliance assistance tools, forge partnerships, and create a recognition program to highlight ergonomics injury reduction efforts.

This plan includes a focus to help immigrant workers, many of whom work in industries with high ergonomic hazard rates and have limited English proficiency.

Also included is formation of a national advisory committee; part of its task will be advising OSHA on research gaps. Working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA will stimulate and encourage research in this area.

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