OSHA - Is Your Firm Ergonomically Ready?

OSHA's new rules, which go into effect January 16, 2001, cover all U.S. workers not employed in the agriculture, construction, railroad or maritime industries — in other words, 102 million workers in virtually every other line of business, big or small. Full enforcement of these regulations, following a nine-month grace period, begins October 15, 2001.

The estimated total cost to businesses has ranged from OSHA's projection of $4.5 billion a year to industry figures of $125 billion a year. The new standards occupy nearly 1,700 pages; they include recommendations ranging from how much an employee should be required to type or use a mouse each day, to how many pounds the employee should lift. The ergonomics standards represent the first time OSHA has defined repetitive stress as a health hazard and ordered employers to take corrective measures.

Get started making your workplace ergonomically sound·

Download the Regulations from the OSHA site and study them. Pay close attention to Appendix A, which outlines the causes and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), or repetitive-stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, sciatica and herniated spinal disc. Each year, OSHA says, 1.8 million U.S. workers report work-related MSDs; 600,000 received time off.

Take a hard look at your job sites and workstations and at your employees' duties — and consider ways you can make them safer.

Establish a written plan and procedure by which your workers can report symptoms of MSDs.

Educate your employees and managers on how to recognize MSDs and their symptoms.

Designate a manager to oversee your program and be the contact person for employees to report MSD symptoms or get additional information.

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