Michigan's Ergonomics War Set to Resume
With the regulatory impact statement and economic analysis all but done, Michigan OSHA's controversial proposed ergonomics standard could reach the public hearings stage in about 90 days.
- By Jerry Laws
- Feb 01, 2010
The war over Michigan's proposed ergonomics standard is heating up again, with a regulatory impact statement and an economic analysis of the standard nearly finished. The next steps are approval by Stanley Pruss, director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, and then possibly three public hearings held around the state, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration Director Doug Kalinowski said Jan. 28. The department is MIOSHA's parent agency.
"The summary in the regulatory impact is being finalized as we speak" after seven months of work by a consulting firm, he said. The hearings probably would be held around 90 days from now, Kalinowski said.
The standard's text (see below) is brief and straightforward. It would apply to all general industry employers with workers exposed to ergonomic hazards, which the standard defines as "conditions where intervention may be necessary to prevent a musculoskeletal disorder." Construction, agriculture, mining, domestic employment, and jurisdictions covered exclusively by the Federal Railroad Administration are exempt.
The standard would require employees at covered workplaces to be given ergonomic awareness training on:
- Ergonomic occupational risk factors (defined in the standard as "characteristics of a work situation that may contribute to a musculoskeletal disorder" that "may be characteristics of the workplace, tasks, or individual work practices")
- Signs/symptoms that indicate an ergonomic hazard may be present
- The process for reporting that an ergonomic hazard may be present
- The process for assessing and responding to ergonomic occupational risk factors
Employers would have to maintain records documenting the training.
Michigan Chamber Pins Hopes on 2010 Election
Two nine-member panels appointed by the governor, the General Industry Safety Standards Commission and the Occupational Health Standards Commission, jointly approved an amended version of it on Jan. 14, 2009, and it will come before both panels again.
"I would hate to speak for my department director," Kalinowski said. "It is likely to get to public hearing. I'm sure there will be plenty of comments."
The standard's chief opponent is the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a potent adversary. The chamber has 7,000 member firms, 40 employees, and one of the state's largest political action committees to promote its agenda.
The ergonomics standard would seriously damage Michigan businesses that are already beset by the weak economy, said Wendy Block, the Michigan Chamber's director of Health Policy and Human Resources.
"This is one where the business community has to agree to disagree with MIOSHA," Block said Jan. 28. "An ergonomics standard that goes beyond federal standards is not necessary. It will cost employers millions of dollars [at a time when] injuries are already declining."
The standard's regulatory impact statement should have been done before the standard was written, she added.
"It's not narrow in focus," Block said. "We raised all these concerns. . . . Our concerns have largely gone unanswered. We're going to continue to oppose it."
Block said she doubts the standard will be stopped by the Michigan Legislature or Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, who already has allowed the standard to go forward despite the chamber's objections. But state law bars Granholm from seeking a third term in the November 2010 election, and that may present the best opportunity for blocking this regulation, Block said.
"We can run the clock and get a new administration. I think we have a chance," she explained. "Our next governor could very well be a Republican. I think there's a real feeling this is their [MIOSHA's] one bite at the apple."
MICHIGAN OSHA DRAFT #17
January 14, 2009
ERGONOMICS IN GENERAL INDUSTRY
Scope and application.
(1) These rules establish the minimum requirements for all general industry employers that have employees with exposure to ergonomic hazards. These rules establish the minimum requirements for awareness training and the process for assessing and responding to ergonomic occupational risk factors.
(2) These rules do not apply to any of the following:
(d) Domestic employment.
(e) Jurisdiction covered exclusively by the Federal Railroad Administration.
(1) "Ergonomic hazards" means conditions where intervention may be necessary to prevent a musculoskeletal disorder. Such conditions can be identified by an assessment of ergonomic occupational risk factors and reports of signs and symptoms.
(2) "Ergonomics" means the practice of designing or modifying jobs, workplaces, equipment, work methods, and tools to match the capabilities of the worker.
(3) "Ergonomic occupational risk factors" means characteristics of a work situation that may contribute to a musculoskeletal disorder. These risk factors may be characteristics of the workplace, tasks, or individual work practices.
(1) All employees shall be given ergonomic awareness training that covers all of the following:
(a) Ergonomic occupational risk factors.
(b) Signs/symptoms that indicate an ergonomic hazard may be present.
(c) Process for reporting that an ergonomic hazard may be present.
(d) Process for assessing and responding to ergonomic occupational risk factors.
(2) Records to document training shall be kept.
(3) An employer may accept previous training through documentation for (1)(a) and (b)
(4) This rule will take effect 6 months after being filed with the Secretary of State.
Process for Assessing and Responding to Ergonomic Occupational Risk Factors.
(1) An employer shall establish and utilize an effective process that includes the following:
(a) Employee involvement.
(b) Assessment of ergonomic occupational risk factors.
(c) Elimination, reduction, or control of ergonomic hazards where economically and technically feasible.
NOTE: Nothing in this act shall be construed to supersede or in any manner affect any workers' compensation law, or to enlarge or diminish or affect in any other manner the common law or statutory rights, duties, or liabilities of employers and employees under any law with respect to injuries, diseases, or death of employees arising out of, or in the course of, employment.