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June 26, 2017

OSHA and Ergonomics: Past, Present and Future

Latest posts by Atlantic Research Team (see all)

Ergonomics is the study of work. From an OSHA perspective, it is the process of designing the job to fit the employee, rather than forcing the employee’s body to fit the job. This process may include modifying tasks, the work environment and equipment to meet the specific needs of an employee to alleviate physical stress on the body and eliminate potentially disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

The overall goal of ergonomics is to eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of soft tissues, e.g., muscles or tendons, awkward posture and repeated tasks. Such common injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and other sprains and strains.

As some may recall, ergonomics was a very hot topic for OSHA in the 1990s. In 2000, OSHA – which had spent a decade studying ergonomics – estimated that $1 of every $3 spent on workers’ compensation stemmed from ergonomic issues and that the direct costs attributable to MSDs were $15 to $20 billion a year, with total annual costs upwards of $54 billion.

OSHA began an ergonomics rule-making process in 1992 and started drafting an ergonomics standard in 1995, which eventually culminated in the issuance of an Ergonomics Program Standard on Nov. 4, 2000. The standard became effective on Jan. 16, 2001.

The new rule generally contained requirements for most non-construction employers to identify and abate MSDs. Not surprisingly, there was strong criticism by various industry and business groups about the new rule that focused on, among other things, mandatory compliance, cost and tension with state workers’ compensation laws. On March 20, 2001, President George W. Bush –shortly after taking office – signed Senate Joint Resolution 6, which repealed the new standard.

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Ergonomics For The 21st Century Training Video

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