March 1, 2000

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Attn: Mr. Charles Jeffress, Assistant Secretary of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW (S.2315)
Washington, DC 20210

[Docket No. S-777, RIN No. 1218-AB36]

Assistant Secretary Jeffress:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), on behalf of its nearly 33,000 members, submits the following comments concerning OSHA's proposed Ergonomic Program Rule, (64 Federal Register, 65768 11/23/99).

Enclosed are a series of documents along with this statement which are requested to be officially made part of the docket. ASSE's review of the proposed standard indicates that even though some changes have been made, its content and tenets are still consistent with the original February, 1999 working draft. Thus, the ASSE June, 1999 comments are still highly relevant to this proposal. The enclosed documents include:

  • ASSE June, 1999 Correspondence on the OSHA Working Draft
  • ASSE June, 1999 Counter Proposal to the OSHA Ergonomics Working Proposed Rule
  • National Registry of Safety Professionals and Other Registrants
  • Background Information of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP)

ASSE Perspective Regarding The Proposed Rule
A major element of the Society's mission is to support sound regulatory actions based on good science and resulting knowledge and actions which enable the development of effective safety and health standards designed to facilitate the identification and control of hazardous conditions and practices. From such standards, hazard control methods, procedures, and programs are initiated to promote positive and pro-active approaches to safety and health. An integral element of these techniques is quality training and educational requirements, which communicate the necessary hazard recognition, control, and avoidance information. This methodology, when properly implemented, has the potential to effectively reduce our nation's workplace injury and illness toll. ASSE takes the following stance concurring promulgation of a mandatory ergonomics standard:

We commend the Agency for their efforts to develop a standard addressing a significant problem in today's working environments. ASSE wants to be clear about our view of the need for a functional ergonomic standard. We reaffirm our support for many of the technical elements of the proposal, particularly those which follow elements found in the "red meat" guidance document. However, there is a concern that the end result of the debates and other potential actions relating to the proposal will result in the rejection of the entire standard. Such a result will most impact employees, the very people the proposal intends to protect.

ASSE perceives the proposal falling short of its original goals of sound science, adaptability for small employers, utilization of safety and health professionals, and creates an over-reliance on the role of health care providers and employees. The Preamble attempts to mandate and mandate too much responsibility on both employers and employees. Through the use of select sections, such as Quick Fix and Grandfathering, the Agency maintains the proposed standard does not pose an unusual burden upon the private sector, and thus, by default upon safety and health professionals. In reality the proposal is actually casting a wide net of adverse responsibility on the private sector and consequently on our members. These issues are of great concern as we recognize the measure of performance will be how compliance program managers decide to interpret and enforce the eventual standard, not what the authors indicate they meant. Another issue is the capability of compliance officers to accurately measure and understand the programs at the sites they visit. While many ergonomic solutions can be considered logical and evident, those situations requiring critical analysis and innovative solutions may not be understood by the untrained observer. For these reasons a logical, clearly stated document that employers, employees, safety professionals, and compliance officers can understand is the best public policy.

Specific aspects of the proposal may force safety professionals into a no-win regulatory situation regarding injury causation that is currently adequately handled by state workers' compensation statutes. During the draft comment period ASSE commented extensively about OSHA's February, 1999 draft proposal. We concluded the original proposal was much easier to understand than the current document. While OSHA's draft was a reasonable starting point, ASSE offered a counter-proposal which is again recommended to the Agency. The ASSE counter-proposal remains a sound discussion document that addresses the specifics of the safety related ergonomic issues employees and employers face on a daily basis.

The most disquieting element of the current proposal is its significant departure from previous standards making. This proposal leans heavily toward correcting issues that should be properly addressed by revising 29 CFR, Part1904, if incident reporting is a real issue, or, if wages are an issue, by Wage and Hour standards applications. ASSE sees the proposal potentially diminishing the abilities of safety and health professionals and practitioners to address actual hazards and exposures in the workplace. The proposed standard will over-focus employers on this issue, to the exclusion of more important hazards and exposures as well as putting safety professionals at odds with employers and employees as they are forced to address social issues instead of safety issues.

Conclusions of ASSE's perspectives:

  • ASSE supports the development of a stand-alone ergonomic standard. This standard should be performance oriented. It should be applicable to all employers and describe the basic tenets and best practices necessary for successfully developing and managing an effective ergonomic program. The standard needs to be supported by a cohesive outreach effort melding the resources of OSHA, business associations, professional societies and academia. Such a program can be supported by other positive reinforcement actions such as penalty reductions for good faith efforts by employers; or, because of the significant anticipated costs to employers, granting tax credits for the creation/maintenance of an acceptable program.

  • The establishment of basic ergonomic management programs and increasing employee awareness and involvement on these issues is not a burden to employers when compared to other safety and health compliance requirements. In fact, most efficient and effective ergonomic initiatives will usually "dovetail" with other existing safety and health programs.

  • ASSE believes there is science justifying the creation of such a standard. ASSE accepts that the National Academy of Science (NAS) ergonomics study released two years ago indicated an overriding basis for an ergonomic standard. However, ASSE supports enhancing the knowledge base through continued research into the causation, identification, and prevention of ergonomic injuries.

ASSE Key Concerns With This Initiative
There are many ASSE members with cutting-edge ergonomic programs in effect. Member provided data and anecdotal information indicates that these programs have led to significant decreases in the numbers of workplace musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). While OSHA's dedication to reducing workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is well recognized, careful analysis will show that the proposed standard may not have the expected positive impact on the reduction of WMSDs in the workplace. Consequently OSHA should review the June 1999 ASSE counter proposal which offers a more reasonable and user friendly approach to the control of WMSDs and ergonomic exposures than the current proposed rule. There is a need to cull out of the proposal, from a sound scientific standpoint, those provisions that will diminish the effectiveness of the standard.

Realistically OSHA should start over again and use the ASSE counterproposal as the basis for a reasonable working standard. It is important that OSHA consider a more incremental approach to the ergonomics issue. If the ASSE counterproposal is not acceptable to OSHA, perhaps the Agency could promulgate a regulation addressing lifting and back injuries followed by other WMSD standards/regulations. Another possibility would be to utilize the Meat Packing Guidelines as a basic approach that can later be strengthened as the Agency obtains more scientific and technical data and other information on effective WMSD intervention controls.

ASSE notes that some of the recommendations and suggestions of its original June 1999 comments to OSHA were incorporated into the current version of the proposed rule. Although we appreciate OSHA's responsiveness, this standard still encompasses requirements that are not reflective of sound public policy. To this end, the following issues must be resolved by OSHA before the standard is finalized:

Unnecessary Resistance to the Standard
Hundreds of ASSE members have contacted the Society in support of an ergonomics standard. But, there is consensus that some sections of the proposal, (e.g., the work restriction program resulting in unwarranted expense) will generate unneeded resistance. There is concern within ASSE that the current proposal could very well result in throwing the baby out with the bath water.

There is equal concern about the apparent social engineering agenda contained in the document which overshadows the prevention aspects of the proposal. Although an ergonomics standard is needed, if the Agency's proposal is defeated, we fear there might not be another opportunity in the foreseeable future to try again. We urge OSHA to propose a more reasonable standard which enhances occupational safety and health, and leaves the issue of payment for rehabilitation, social issues and workers' compensation reengineering to the existing federal and state laws and regulations governing these areas.

ASSE questions why OSHA stopped using the term WMSD (workplace muscular skeletal disorder) and substituted MSD (muscular skeletal disorder). It is important that the standard specifically recognize that the rule will only address workplace ergonomic issues, and recommend that OSHA use the term WMSD to make this differentiation. This proposal will create the situation where safety professionals, on behalf of their employers, coworkers, clients, and associates, will spend significant time and resources to address, manage, and control MSDs that have nothing to do with the workplace. In addition, the definition and symptoms of an MSD are consistent with those described in medical science books addressing exercise and sports activity overexertion, thus, encouraging the reporting of injuries that have nothing to do with workplace exposures and hazards. The proposed standard and the resulting real and implied responsibilities ascribed to safety and health professionals and practitioners will lead to unwarranted OSHA citations and penalties, criminal sanctions (if the standard of compliance equals a health standard,) and lawsuits.

Format Issues
The original 1998/1999 working draft was a much more reasonable and understandable standard than the current proposal. Virtually every ASSE member who reviewed the working document in February 1999 commented that the format of the original proposal was easy to follow and understand. Such an approach would have been beneficial to small businesses or other business entities that do not have a safety professional on-staff or have access to a knowledgeable consultant. However, there is now a consensus that the current draft is a significant regression from the 1998/1999 document. The proposed rule is cumbersome, confusing, and unclear. The Society has been reviewing the document since it was published and still find it unclear as to what the standard actually requires for 1) a workplace ergonomic program, 2) the standard of proof to establish the program, and 3) how the worker restriction/payment portions of standard will do anything to prevent WMSDs.

The Preamble is very confusing and mainly consists of OSHA's justification for the proposed rule, (specifically the material on workers restriction program). A detailed review of worker compensation statutes is irrelevant to such a standard. All of the justification language should be eliminated from the preamble, and if used at all, be included as non-mandatory appendix for those who would have interest in reading it. The preamble should explain the intent of the standard, provide employer and employee comment and OSHA's reaction to such comments, provide interpretations, offer insights to future enforcement mechanisms, and provide technical insight on the standard itself. As drafted however, the Preamble fails to adequately explain these areas, and instead, is dedicated to self-justification by OSHA of the standard.

Loss of Focus on Overall Safety and Health
The structure of this standard will de-emphasize an overall efficient/effective safety and health management program and shift the focus and resources to that of compliance with the proposed ergonomic standard. A sound ergonomic program should be part of an overall efficient/effective safety and health program. It would be poor policy, and an unfortunate consequence, to allow ergonomics to become the primary driver of a safety and health program.

Mechanization Versus Human Labor
ASSE strongly favors the establishment of a stand-alone ergonomic standard. The Society has been dedicated to the protection of people, property, and the environment since 1911, thus, protection of the worker is of paramount importance to us. Our concern is that if the standard will not reduce the number of WMSDs, and is considered to be unreasonable and unduly expensive, it could encourage employers to eliminate permanent jobs and consider other alternatives such as using off-shore suppliers, increased mechanization of the workplace, and changing work practices/procedures to reduce its workforce.

Since the proposed rule was published in November 1999 we have received many calls from members working in the insurance industry or consulting asking for cost/benefit information on the proposal. There are increasing attempts by companies to correlate the financial impact of the standard with that of mechanizing specific job functions, (e.g. instead of paying a worker to run a shrink-wrap machine, will the standard now make it more economically feasible to move it off-shore).

Safety Standard - Not a Health Standard
There is significant disagreement with the OSHA position that ergonomics is a health issue and that the rule should be promulgated as a health standard. Most cumulative trauma disorder is the result of soft tissue damage, consequently this a workplace injury issue. The standard should be promulgated as a safety standard. If an employee had a soft tissue injury in the workplace due to a "pinching" incident, the relevant safety standards would be applicable. Why are soft tissue ergonomic injuries being treated in a different manner when it would be more consistent with OSHA policy to process this initiative as a safety standard.

Quick Fix
ASSE supports the intent of the Quick Fix provision. However, we are puzzled why OSHA thinks an employer will know in four months whether or not the control method has worked. If the incident involves one worker, and that worker is part of worker restriction program, then the worker may not be part of the process to eliminate the WMSD. Under the OSHA scenario it is possible the employer would have to correct a WMSD exposure without having the key players involved. There needs to be a longer intervention period. A minimum of nine months seems more realistic.

Responsible Person Concept
The apparent intent of this concept is to promote a team approach to ergonomic programs and establish some documented levels of responsibility. However, the proposed standard seeks to identify specific individuals to be responsible for the establishment of programs and the initiation of corrective action. In many cases, these employees will be the staff safety professional or perhaps third-party consultants. The primary mission of the safety professional is to provide information to management supported by good science and sound technology. ASSE's concern is that during implementation and interpretation of the standard, OSHA could hold safety professionals responsible for workplace ergonomic issues beyond their control. Clarification is needed on the following issues:

  • Would prompt communication of identification of hazards and suggested courses of action or corrections to responsible management leadership, by safety professionals, meet the intent of the standard?
  • Would a safety professional be potentially held personally liable under the Occupational Safety and Health Act if his/her suggested corrective action was not taken and the result was an ergonomic injury to an employee?

  • What would be the tort liability of safety professionals arising from workplace ergonomic injuries?

  • When will OSHA provide rationale in its Preface/Preamble addressing these concerns and clarifying the exposures of the "responsible person" ?

  • Will, and if not why not, the language of the standard provide such a shield for the safety professional is his or her assigned staff/non-employer role?

One Case Trigger
ASSE believes that retention of the "one case" trigger cannot be substantiated by accepted recognized practices and procedures regularly employed in the safety profession. While we acknowledge the "one case" trigger may not necessarily require the implementation of the standard, this requirement is a "lightning rod" for resistance by employers. This specific section is not supported by good science and sound technology as one case of a WMSD is simply not indicative of systemic problems. Finally, this provision is confusing and appears to be a stutter step approach to addressing an issue which other standards make much easier.

One of the biggest issues to our members is determining when an ergonomic injury is work-related. The workplace ergonomic analysis provisions of the proposed rule are designed to address this issue, but such analyses often reach unclear and disputed conclusions. Many ergonomic problems arise off-the-job, and in the absence of a clear triggering incident, getting at the root cause is extremely problematic. If the cause is not in the workplace, trying to fix the workplace will not reduce or eliminate injuries. Thus, we see the "one case" trigger as being poor policy. OSHA has heard this point repeatedly from ASSE and other stakeholders, however, we hope it will not be again ignored. Small Business Issues
There is insufficient information to enable the small business owner or operator to understand the ergonomics issue and the proposed standard. ASSE is at a loss to see how a small business entity without specialized training will be able to use the standard to prevent WMSDs. The original draft was much more understandable to small business, whereas the new proposal will be considered by most of them to be virtually incomprehensible.

Work Restriction Program
This standard must not establish the tenet of irrefutable presumption of guilt, a presumption of guilt that our members will be forced to address, manage, and try to control. In some industries this issue might not arise, but this standard will impact much less obvious cases that cannot be readily resolved through root cause analysis. It could lead to the creation of an OSHA equivalent to Superfund that would only lead to an endless and expensive rise in the rates of litigation. This issue is perhaps summarized by the question - - when is a potential or existing ergonomic hazard permanently controlled?

We believe the Work Restriction Protection provision will have a significantly negative impact on the different state worker compensation systems. The long term impact of such a policy will be the placement of adverse burdens on safety professionals, and their employers, clients, and workers they are bound professionally to protect. As OSHA improperly makes an assumption that any MSD is work-related, the potential result of this policy could be to mire safety professionals in trying to manage worksite fixes to address a series of open-ended medical situations unrelated to actual workplace hazards or incidents.

The OSHA analysis, included in the Preamble addressing this issue, remains vague and unresolved. We understand it to say that while injuries, in general, are decreasing and similar decreases are experienced with physical stress, strain and sprain, (reference Liberty Mutual and BLS data) OSHA believes there is significant underreporting of ergonomic injuries. It appears OSHA believes this is occurring only with ergonomic injury. Such a scenario seems inconsistent with history and even the Agency's own statements. Also, OSHA's own survey of employer recordkeeping accuracy showed that the overwhelming majority of employers do report accurately.

The proposed rule also would provide employees with time off of work at 90% pay after taxes. The proposed rule, in effect, will provide a pay raise to those who are not at work since there will not be any commuting cost or other expenses associated with going to work. With the entire country moving toward efficient and effective rehabilitation of workers through improved medical management systems, why is the Agency would pursuing a policy which encourages a person to stay home?

This section (WRP) should be removed in its entirety. The objective of OSHA is to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. It is not to address how individuals are compensated during rehabilitation. There are already a whole series of federal and state laws addressing this issue. ASSE is convinced these provisions will be fought out eventually in the courts by industry organizations with OSHA's position not prevailing.

Grandfathering Clauses
The grandfathering clause is functionally ineffective, particularly for the small employer since the program must still be equivalent to what OSHA requires. The grandfathering concept is too vague. Based upon previous experience, compliance officers may enforce the standard in an arbitrary manner due to lack of training, certification, and experience. Such deficiencies could lead to chaos through different interpretations of whether hazards and exposures are limited to a given case. ASSE members and safety professionals who have already established ergo programs may have to jump through many hoops to convince a compliance officer that their program meets the requirements of the standard. Finally, the standard of proof is going to present significant problems.

Data and Cost Considerations
Careful review of the existing materials indicates that OSHA has not provided accurate case cost data. The Agency has significantly underestimated the costs necessary to implement and maintain the standard. As an example, while it appears that OSHA is planning on selective enforcement, the Agency is trying to give the perception that ergonomic evaluation and controls are not that difficult to understand and implement. However, ergonomics and cumulative trauma disorders are very complicated technical issues. Has OSHA conducted any studies or research on how many business people can work the NIOSH Lifting Formula for a multiple step lift with a twisting action in it? While the NIOSH formula, Snook and Cirello tables, and RULA are specifically referenced in the Preamble, we do not believe that the typical business person will able to learn all of this in the hour of training allotted in the Preamble's cost assessment. However, later on in the Preamble OSHA discusses how more training may be necessary depending upon the specifics of the operation. This issue needs to be addressed more thoroughly to avoid additional legal challenges related to the economic feasibility and the Agency's compliance with Regulatory Flexibility Act (RegFlex).

Competency Issues
The standard will surely trigger a significant need for trained safety professionals. However, ASSE was distressed to learn that OSHA does not recognize the importance of using competent safety and health professionals and qualified consultants to conduct or direct ergonomic programs. OSHA should encourage employers to use staff safety professionals, or contract with those safety professionals who have the competence and expertise to conduct ergonomic related activities.

A historical concern of ASSE is that the safety profession is heavily regulated in regard to how a function/practice is to be conducted, but, there has been little if any guidance addressing the level of competence of those who perform these activities. OSHA may have to define the competence of safety professionals in the future as related to its proposed standards. ASSE stands ready to assist when this issue arises. The Society has advocated professional competence for almost ninety (90) years. Accordingly, we have the resources, expertise, and history to assist with this issue, (e.g. ANSI Z590 proposed rule, National Registry of Safety Professionals and Other Registrants, introduction of legislation defining competence in numerous states).

Third Party and Record Confidentiality
ASSE is very concerned that OSHA believes the establishment of an ergonomic program can be justified through hazards identified in an insurance audit or consultant's report. This infers that consultant/insurance reports must be made available to a compliance officer during an inspection. We suggest an approach to that introduced in the 1997 version of the SAFEAct, where an administrative law judge would decide based on an in-camera-review whether the Agency's request for consultants' audit reports is warranted. ASSE further notes:

  • OSHA would base the establishment of a program on the report of a consultant. OSHA has opposed the use of consultants for voluntary third party audits and evaluations and has criticized their level of integrity, knowledge, and ability. However, in this case OSHA would deem the report of a consultant as authoritative when deciding whether or not an ergonomics program must be implemented. We find these positions to be inconsistent, and request clarification. If OSHA mistrusts safety and health consultants to such a degree as it previously expressed in Congressional hearings, why would the Agency now take their reports as gospel for the sake of enforcing this standard.

  • OSHA must ensure some privacy for consultant/insurance reports in order to motivate employers to take viable action to foster a safe and healthful workplace.

  • ASSE believes that ensuring privacy for consultant/insurance reports increases the level of responsibility that the private sector will take for the safety of its workforce.

  • Ensuring privacy of consultant/insurance reports encourages accurate recordkeeping. Having accurate data is a key component in identifying potential or latent workplace hazards.

There are still a significant number of employers in the United States who do not have ergonomic programs. Thus, the creation of this standard could place a renewed national focus on the importance of ergonomic management programs. If/when the standard is promulgated, there is little question that assistance in creating and maintaining efficient/effective ergonomic management programs will be needed. The needed level of expertise is beyond the skills of many companies not employing on-staff safety professionals. In order to meet the expected need of consultation services, OSHA should consider reviewing a pilot program for voluntary third party ergonomic audit and evaluations, and work with the accredited private sector professional certification bodies, public and private recognized registries, and with credible/professional membership organizations to help ensure that consultants have an acceptable level of competence. We think the private sector might be more willing to accept the tenets of a standard if there were an employer support process similar to the one proposed in the SAFEAct.

Employee Involvement
OSHA believes that the employee may be the best person to recommend changes to their job. However, it is true only if employees are well trained and have accessible guidance. The experience of ASSE's members (who perform thousands of ergonomic consultations per year) is that even employees who have been well trained miss very important issues when dealing with a multi-factorial problem, which most ergonomic issues are.

While there needs to be a section in the standard addressing employee involvement, we are concerned that the philosophy of the proposed standard is not consistent with most business environments. Most working environments include employee communication at some level in the work process. While there clearly needs to be language in the standard including employees, the tone and mandates of the standard lead us to question the intent of OSHA. The Agency has written a standard which addresses a 1930's management philosophy. ASSE suggests that there should be employee participation language similar to the February 1999 working draft, which included employee involvement but did not bog the document down with unneeded and unclear minutia.

Employee involvement is a great asset to a program, and it needs to be emphasized. However, it must remain in balance with management accountability. While ASSE generally tries not to comment on employer/employee relations issues, the standard places too much emphasis on employee involvement to the point of having employees control the ergonomics programs. This imbalance could improperly shift OSHA's role from a safety and health enforcement agency to a reviewer of employee/employer relations programs.

The relationship of employees to employers is a subject central to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA Act). The OSHA Act encourages employers and employees to jointly work to reduce the number of hazards in the workplace. It should stimulate employers and employees to institute and perfect safety programs. ASSE questions the ultimate intent of the emphasis on employee involvement. We cannot understand, nor rationalize a skewed emphasis which apparently goes well beyond a beneficial relationship between employers and employees.

Health Care Professionals
There is great and good concern that the proposed rule allows health care professionals to provide ergonomic consultations in the workplace regardless of their occupational safety and health professional background. In fact, OSHA's belief that it is important to single out healthcare professionals as being qualified to perform ergonomic evaluations, and not recognize safety professionals or industrial hygienists in the proposal is poor public policy and is indefensible.

The proposed standard appears to allow health care professionals unfettered access to the workspace. It seems the opinions of health care professionals are virtually unquestionable. The proposal also specifically recognizes they have the opportunity to suggest workplace changes. While some health care providers are qualified to provide such consultation, many others lack the background, experience, or technical education to provide such consultation. Including health care professionals, carte-blanche, does not make sense from any perspective and we vigorously oppose this provision. There is an urgent need for OSHA to look at the issue of credentials for those professionals qualified to perform ergonomic evaluations.

Comments in the Preamble would indicate that some employers, particularly in rural areas, are more concerned with access to health professionals (doctors, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners,) and not as concerned with the qualifications of such providers. As OSHA has focused on the importance of health in this standard, ASSE is perplexed that the Agency apparently is not calling for a higher level of knowledge and competency for those health care professionals listed as qualified to administer to injured workers.

Training Issues
A significant portion of the proposal is dedicated to the importance of training. Significantly, the Society is the secretariat of the accredited American National Standards (ANSI) project titled; Z490, Criteria for Best Practices in Safety, Health, and Environmental Training. This standard is a work in progress which, when created/approved, will have significant impact on safety, health, and environmental training and federal/state legislation and regulation impacting such training. The Morella Amendment to the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 requires that national voluntary consensus be considered for implementation during formal rule making. Most importantly, OSHA has a representative on the Z490 committee creating the proposed rule, and we recommend that the agency consider recognizing/citing the standard in the rule after it is approved through the ANSI process.

Other Issues

  • ASSE appreciates the additional thirty (30) days to extend the public comment period. However, we are concerned by the OSHA position that only those stakeholders who arranged to physically testify may submit additional comments to rebut statements made in the public hearings. OSHA leadership also stated a policy that interested parties can send his/her own personal comments to their respective associations/societies for submission to the record, if the organization chose to testify at one of the public hearings. This policy will force organizations like ASSE to do one of two things. ASSE must either submit comments that the Society does not agree with from a philosophical/technical perspective, or there will be a screening of views and comments from interested stakeholders. This is poor public policy. The general public should be able to send in a rebuttal comment to any statement entered into the record during the hearings.

  • If an employer worksite has one WMSD occur in several different jobs, it appears that the standard requires that the employer "attack" all of these problem jobs at once. This issue becomes significant since it impact draws away resources from other important safety and health initiatives to meet the requirements of this standard.

  • ASSE supports involving employees in a workplace ergonomic program. However, ASSE also concern that the Agency is trying to use this standard in an attempt to prohibit traditional safety incentive programs. We recommend that the language proposed in the regulation not be used to prohibit traditional safety incentive programs. ASSE defines such programs as those activities which are part of a broader safety and health initiative and are in place to enhance the program and procedures, not merely as a focus on "accident reduction." Compliance officers need to be trained to recognize the distinctions between effective incentive programs which are part of a broader safety and health program, and not simply serving as the entire program or the primary element of it. Incentive programs must emphasize accurate reporting of work-related injuries/illnesses irrespective of the effect on the incentive program award status.

  • While ASSE had the opportunity to provide insight to OSHA on the ergonomics issue through stakeholder meetings and correspondence, the proposed standard was circulated to organizations prior to its publication in the Federal Register. All stakeholders should have equal opportunity to provide insight on this proposed rule under the usual and prescribed rules of public notification.

  • The "IS/IS NOT" tables of Manual Handling Jobs and Manufacturing Jobs, in the Definitions Section, appear reasonable and should be retained without change.

We hope our comments will be of assistance to OSHA. This proposed standard can be of significant benefit to employees, employers, professional safety and health organizations, and the country overall if/when finalized. ASSE will continue to support OSHA in the creation of a feasible ergonomic standard, based on good science and sound technology, which will benefit all stakeholders. We thank you for your attention to this matter, and if we can be of assistance please feel free to contact the Society.

Sincerely yours,

Frank H. Perry, CSP, PE
Society President, 1999-2000

Copy To:  ASSE Board of Directors
                   ASSE Council on Professional Affairs
                   ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee
                   ASSE Contact List


see also:

Testimony of American Society of Safety Engineers on the Matter of: Department of Labor, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (04/21/00)

ASSE Formal Ergonomics Testimony (3/13/2000)

ASSE Update on the OSHA Ergonomic Draft Standard Update (1/00)

ASSE Request for Comment Period Extension - OSHA Ergonomic Draft Standard (12/99)

ASSE Statement on the OSHA Proposed Ergonomic Program Standard (5/99)

ASSE Position Statement on Ergonomics (5/97)


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