WASHINGTON, DC — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has unveiled a plan which it says will reduce ergonomic injuries through a combination of industry-targeted guidelines, tough enforcement measures, workplace outreach, advanced research, and dedicated efforts to protect Hispanic and other immigrant workers.

“Our goal is to help workers by reducing ergonomic injuries in the shortest possible timeframe,” said Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “This plan is a major improvement over the rejected old rule because it will prevent ergonomic injuries before they occur and reach a much larger number of at-risk workers.”

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

According to OSHA, for the first time, it will have an enforcement plan designed from the start to target prosecutable ergonomic violators. Also for the first time, inspectors will be coordinated with a legal strategy developed by Department of Labor (DOL) attorneys that is based on prior successful ergonomic cases and is designed to maximize successful prosecutions.

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

Finally, as part of the DOL’s cross-agency commitment to protecting immigrant workers, especially those with limited English proficiency, the new ergonomics plan includes a specialized focus to help Hispanic and other immigrant workers, many of whom work in industries with high ergonomic hazard rates.

For more information, go to www.osha.gov (website).

Publication date: 04/15/2002