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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts in ergonomics.

We updated you about OSHA’s new Weighted Inspection Program in our October 3 post, “What’s the Real Effect of OSHA’s Revamped Inspection Process, the Enforcement Weighing System?” A Bloomberg BNA piece tonight summed up the processes’ effect:

The new measurement method—the “enforcement weighting system”—has replaced the OSHA practice of simply counting inspections and assigning each inspection the same degree of importance when measuring enforcement activities. The new system ranks inspections based on the time and resources needed to conduct evaluations, with complicated inspections receiving more points than those requiring no assistance from additional OSHA staff.

As I finally flew home last week, I sat beside Jeff Smagacz, the owner of an engineering firm, RMG. Jeff explained that RMG spends 75% of its time analyzing manufacturing and distribution processes to make them faster, more efficient, require less employees … and to lessen employee exposure to ergonomic injuries. About 25% of their time is spent in more traditional “ergonomic work” like designing ergonomically efficient devices such as curved keyboards. I was struck by RMG’s approach to first address the overall manufacturing or distribution process, and do so to improve performance, rather than myopically focusing on one worker or task and addressing ergonomic issues.

This is the first post of a several part series which will deal with OSHA concerns for distributors, including OSHA ergonomic citation efforts. The distributor’s biggest OSHA compliance challenges are routine items. Once the distributor is cited for one of these common violations, this violation may serve as the basis for a “Repeat” OSHA citation of up to $70,000 for five years at any of the employer’s locations in any other Fed-OSHA state. If the distributor has multiple locations, there is a substantial risk that a common error may occur in this five year period. That’s why many relatively safe retailer chains have recently been receiving six-figure OSHA citations.

It's not that easy for OSHA to make out citations based on musculoskeletal disorder hazards because OSHA does not have an ergonomic standard. OSHA will take a shot at certain industries, especially the poultry industry. Read the OSHA News Release below for an idea of what OSHA looks for when it's on the ergonomic hunt. And of course, this is an OSHA Press Release, so we don't know if the hazards existed or other facts.

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