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Ergonomics in the Workplace: Is It Time for an OSHA Standard?

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Publication Date: January 2003

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 97-724

Topic: Labor (Occupational health and safety)


Improper ergonomic design of jobs is one of the leading causes cited for workrelated illness, accounting for perhaps a third of employers' costs under state workers' compensation laws, according to OSHA. Due to the wide variety of circumstances, however, any comprehensive standard would probably have to be complex and costly, while scientific understanding of the problem is not complete. On November 14, 2000, OSHA promulgated an ergonomics standard. It would require employers to set up control programs for job categories where "work-related musculoskeletal disorders" are reported. These programs would include job hazard analysis and control, medical management of reported injuries, employee participation, training and evaluation. Congress has signaled its interest in the issue for a number of years. After a draft proposal was released in 1995, riders to the Labor Department appropriations bills were passed preventing OSHA from issuing a standard during most of fiscal years 1995 through 1998. After the final standard was released in November 2000, opponents of OSHA's approach introduced and quickly passed a congressional resolution of disapproval (S.J.Res. 6), which revoked the rule upon being signed by the President. Consideration is being given to further legislation that would instruct OSHA to develop a new standard. (This report will be updated to reflect significant congressional actions.)